When someone injures a nerve in body-part like a finger, it isn’t uncommon for that part to finish up with a permanently decreased sense of touch. A self-powered implantable sensor, however, could 1 day restore sensitivity to such injured areas.
Created by a team at Israel’s Tel Aviv University, the experimental device is meant to be surgically implanted under the skin in compromised part like the fingertip, in-which touch or sensation is lacking. That said, it could even be utilized in other regions.
It incorporates what’s referred to as a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG). Putting it very simply, TENGs generate an electrical charge via rubbing together of 2 different dielectric materials – the static charge created by shuffling across a carpet in your sock feet is an example.
The TENG within the sensor is formed from 2 square plates placed one above the opposite , with alittle gap between them. Each plate is formed of different flexible material, measuring less-than half a Cm(centimeter) on all sides .
When the fingertip comes into contact with a surface, pressure is applied to the TENG. This causes the 2 plates comes into contact with each other , generating an electrical charge. Current is carried along an insulated wire to an electrode cuff that’s wrapped round the end of an adjacent undamaged nerve.
That nerve successively relays the electrical signal to the central systema nervosum , leading to the brain registering a sensation of touch within the fingertip. The greater the quantity of pressure that’s applied to the TENG, higher the electrical charge that is released, and thus the more intense the feeling .
In lab tests conducted on rats, the sensor was reportedly ready to restore touch or sensation to hind paws in-which nerve had previously been cut, allowing the animals to walk again normally.
“Next, we would like to check the implant on larger models, and at a later stage implant our sensors within the fingers of individuals who have lost the power to sense touch,” says the lead scientist, Dr. Ben M. Maoz. “Restoring this ability can significantly improve people’s functioning & quality of life, and more importantly, protect them from danger. People lacking touch cannot feel if their finger is being crushed, burned or frozen.”
The research was recently published in the journal ACS Nano.