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Engineers will be called on to make innovative use of materials to design and fabricate devices that allow sustained electronic functioning in the environment of the human body, without causing tissue infection or other serious conditions. Research efforts have focused on technologies that enable the micro devices to be safely implanted in human tissue for long periods. Sarah Felix, a research engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), is making gains with thin-film flexible polymer materials that allow devices to conform to the live tissue in which they are implanted.
Lawrence Livermore is currently developing neural implants that are able to restore auditory, motor and bladder function, aid speech, and control depression and epilepsy.
Future programs at the lab include experimentation with deep brain and spinal cord simulation, which will enable physicians to advance neural prosthetics to the next level of human health and rehabilitation.
Promising clinical studies are underway at some of the most prestigious medical research centers in the U.S. as the scientific community continues to advance neural prosthetics to help disabled persons achieve quality of life.
Indeed, neural prosthetics will be an intriguing pathway of multidisciplinary scientific and engineering development for years to come.
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