A soft approach kick-starts cybernetic implants

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Science  09 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6218, pp. 114
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6218.114

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When it comes to making cybernetic implants that aim to fuse electronics with biology, a soft touch works best. Researchers in the United States and Switzerland report this week that they were able to restore the ability of paralyzed rats to walk after implanting ultrasoft, pliable electrode arrays along their damaged spines. The soft implants were better able to match the animals' natural movements without detaching from the neural tissue. The softness also helped the implants avoid triggering rejection by the immune system, which could either kill the animals or cause the surrounding tissues to wall off the implants, leaving them useless. In the future, such implants may help restore mobility in paralyzed patients or be used to treat neurological ailments, such as Parkinson's disease and Tourette syndrome.