Nerve-like polymer network created: Gentle interface for prosthetics?

Using a succession of biological mechanisms, Sandia National Laboratories researchers have created linkages of polymer nanotubes that resemble the structure of a nerve, with many out-thrust filaments poised to gather or send electrical impulses.

"This is the first demonstration of naturally occurring proteins assembling chemically created polymers into complex structures that modern machinery can't duplicate," said Sandia National Laboratories researcher George Bachand.

Sandia co-researcher Wally Paxton said, "This is foundational science, but one possibility we see, way down the road, is to use soft artificial structures like these to painlessly interface with the body's nerve structures."

Currently, rigid electrodes that cause inflammation are used to penetrate nerve tissue trying to communicate with an artificial limb, he explained. Instead, in a future application, the polymer network could be used extend the nerve, providing a gentler prosthetic interface.

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