Piezo implants could speed up tendon healing

Implantable piezoelectric devices – powered by a patient’s walking motion – could be used to treat tendon damage and disease according to a team of researchers at the National University of Ireland in Galway.

A study carried out by a group at the university’s CÚRAM medical device research centre has demonstrated that tendon cell function and repair can be controlled through electrical stimulation from an implantable device which is powered by body movement.

The results of have been published in the journal Advanced Materials.

tendon
The implantable stimulator device produces electricity when put under pressure. Image: http://www.curamdevices.ie/

Dr Marc Fernandez, who carried out the principal research at CÚRAM, said: “Successful treatment of tendon damage and disease represents a critical medical challenge. Our discovery shows that an electrical charge is produced in the treatment target area – the damaged or injured tendon – when the implanted device is stretched during walking. The potential gamechanger here is like a power switch in a cell – the electrical stimulus turns on tendon-specific regenerative processes in the damaged tendon.”

The stimulator device uses a fabric like piezoelectric mesh that produces electricity when stretched or put under mechanical pressure. It is made using a scaffold of nano-fibres.

Lead researcher on the study, CÚRAM Investigator Dr Manus Biggs added that one of the most exciting parts of our study is that the implantable devices can be tailored to individual patients or disorders.

“This unique strategy of combining a device which is powered through body-movement and which can induce accelerated tendon healing is expected to significantly impact the field of regenerative devices, specifically in the area of sports or trauma associated injuries,” he said.

The research was funded by Science Foundation Ireland and in particular the SFI-BBSRC Partnership programme.