Proximal nerve injury (PNI) is a problem affecting many people throughout the world. Complete transection, or brachial plexus injury, is the most severe, resulting in complete dysfunction of the arm and hand motor and sensory function. Modern surgical options include nerve grafting of viable roots, nerve transfers, free-functioning muscle transfers, tendon transfers, and a combination of these techniques. However, functional recovery in distal limb function is almost never achieved. Surgical repair of proximal PNI such as brachial plexus injuries offers some degree of restoration but has reached its limit. The ideal solution for the treatment of PNIs would be a direct linkage of the complex nerve signals to the end-organ, providing immediate functional results without the long wait for nerve regeneration.
Our aim is to first develop novel peripheral nerve electrodes using advanced microfabrication methods and different types of materials to interface with the regenerating nerve. Additionally, we are developing algorithms to discriminate between signals from the healthy nerve that can selectively decode volitional signals with high selectivity. These signals will be used to increase the number of stimulation patterns that can be transmitted to stimulating electrodes implanted in multiple target muscles. To record from nerves and stimulate the distal muscle, we are developing implantable low power and wireless very large scale integrated (VLSI) circuits, which will be fully integrated into implantable systems that integrate microelectrodes, microelectronics, and wireless technologies.
Finally, we are able to utilize our team's clinical surgical expertise and our non-human primate resources to demonstrate restoration of hand function after nerve injury followed by clinical trials in human patients.
Bench to Patient Roadmap
Our project will utilize both rodent and non-human primate animal models to test various aspects of our device.