Medical Devices and Healthcare IT

Tiny Neural Implant Has Big Potential

01 September 2018

New neural implants from Draper are tiny in size, but are poised to make a big impact in treating disease through networked abilities.

A driving factor in the new implant design is the growing awareness that disease often involves complex interactions between multiple systems in the body. This networked perspective has led to the emergence of the fields of networked physiology and networked medicine. However, available implantable devices aren’t reaching their potential because of their large size - resembling large pacemakers of the past - and are The Gemstones neuromodulation system provides the therapeutic benefits of smaller, smarter and more scalable implants that combine advanced wireless connectivity and miniaturization. Source: DraperThe Gemstones neuromodulation system provides the therapeutic benefits of smaller, smarter and more scalable implants that combine advanced wireless connectivity and miniaturization. Source: Draperlimited to stimulation at a single location in the body.

Draper tackled this challenge by developing a miniature, wireless and networked neuromodulation system that is about 20 times smaller than existing implants. The Gemstone devices are only one cubic centimeter and are wirelessly powered and equipped with advanced microelectronics (ASICs) that provide 32 channels of recording and stimulation. Recorded biosignals can be monitored by distributed Gemstones and used to trigger coordinated stimulation therapies on-the-fly to target disease in ways not previously possible. Each Gemstone can interface with multiple types of electrodes, and the number of networked Gemstones can be varied based upon the patient’s clinical needs. Draper’s current system supports networking among as many as four Gemstones for a total of 128 electrodes.

The current work extends Draper’s growing portfolio of extreme miniaturization and closed-loop networked implants. In other Draper systems, miniature implants are networked by implantable leads. By designing the Gemstone so that it doesn’t need leads and connectors, the implanted volume was significantly reduced, which ultimately translates to improved patient safety.

The Gemstones’ small size means they can easily go where other implants can’t, such as the head. Existing deep brain stimulation systems are large - typically 20 cubic centimeters - and require implantation in the chest with an electrode lead tunneled through the neck and head to access the brain. However, many brain disorders, like neuropsychiatric illnesses, affect multiple distributed neural regions that can’t all be accessed by existing systems. Gemstones’ network capability may provide new opportunities to restore balance to these brain networks. Potential peripheral applications that can benefit from distributed systems include hypertension, diabetes, incontinence, pain, reanimation of paralyzed limbs and restoration of limb function for amputees through neuroprosthetics.

To contact the author of this article, email engineering360editors@globalspec.com


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