A group of researchers, clinicians and engineers at Cambridge University have developed an ultra-thin (about the width of a human hair), inflatable device that can be used to treat the most severe forms of pain without the need for invasive surgery. The device uses a combination of soft robotic fabrication techniques, ultra-thin electronics and microfluidics.
The device is about as thin as a human hair, allowing it to be rolled up into a tiny cylinder, inserted into a needle and then implanted in the correct location in the spinal column. Once it is in the correct position the device is inflated with water or air so that it unrolls like a tiny air mattress. Whilst it is connected to a pulse generator, ultra-thin electrodes send small electrical currents to the spinal cord, therefore disrupting any pain signals.
Looking to the future, researchers think the device could be an effective treatment for severe pain such as leg and back pain. Another beneficial factor is that it could open up more treatment options for those who are unable to use current methods.
Dr Rachel Atfield, Commercialisation Manager at Cambridge Enterprise said: “This technology has the potential to transform clinical treatment, significantly improve pain management for so many people, and reach patients who cannot be treated with existing devices.”