Spinal injuries interrupt the flow of electrical signals from the brain to the lower parts of the body, reducing mobility and in severe cases leading to total paralysis. Spinal stimulators are devices that can be surgically implanted into a patient's spine to bypass the injury site and restore some mobility. Unfortunately, these are often bulky, require surgery, and have precision issues.
For the new study, the Johns Hopkins team developed a much smaller device that's flexible and stretchable. It's placed into a different site than other stimulators – the ventrolateral epidural surface, which is not only close to motor neurons for better precision, but it can just be injected into place with a regular syringe, no surgery required. Tests in paralyzed mice proved promising.