Developing Implantable and Wearable Technology for Spinal Cord Injury

Published in Insight - Insight Jan./Feb. 2021

After an operation to treat a spinal cord injury, “we can’t monitor the spinal cord and provide treatment interventions in real time,” says Nicholas Theodore, director of the Johns Hopkins Neurosurgical Spine Center. That all may change, however, thanks to a $13.48 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and a team of Johns Hopkins neurosurgeons and biomedical engineers, working in tandem with academic and industry partners.

The group — led by Theodore and biomedical engineer Amir Manbachi — is developing both implantable and wearable devices to be implemented at the time of surgery to allow continuous, postoperative treatment of spinal cord injury. The technologies’ shared purpose is to prevent secondary injury such as neurological damage and to promote lower extremity muscle function, cardiovascular stability and bladder function.

The team’s goal is to build and test three implantable devices and three wireless wearables that would work together to monitor a patient’s health and to deliver interventions.

“If we could measure, monitor and treat the spinal cord continuously over the course of a week or more after surgery, it would give us a real opportunity to improve outcomes,” says Theodore.

The technology includes a multifunctional implant, an epidural electrical spinal stimulator; and an acute cerebrospinal fluid CSF management implant.

The wireless wearables include a blood pressure imaging sensor, a bladder volume imaging and pressure sensor, and an electromyography and accelerometry tracking sensor. These technologies would deliver real-time data to one software application that will help inform treatment decisions.

The team aims to have an FDA-approved technology that could be used in clinical trials by the end of the five-year grant period.

“We have the top neurosurgery department in the country combined with the top biomedical engineering department in the country on this project,” says Theodore. “I’m extremely optimistic about the possibilities.”

See the original version of this article: Developing Implantible and Wearable Technology to Treat Spinal Cord Injury.

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