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A*STAR’s IME and Biospark develop wireless implantable device to reduce chronic pain

Zafirah Salim | Jan. 19, 2016
This device will also eliminate the need to undergo invasive surgery for battery replacements.

Patients who suffer from chronic pain such as failed back surgery syndrome, nerve-related pain and complex regional pain syndrome - a condition that affects one of the limbs due to an injury or trauma to the limb - will soon have an option of pain mitigation.

This is all made possible thanks to a new wireless implantable chronic pain management device developed by A*STAR's Institute of Microelectronics (IME) and local biotechnology firm Biospark Technologies Pte Ltd (Biospark).

According to a media statement, neurostimulators are surgical implants which can be a long-term solution for patients suffering from pain as a result of injury, surgery or health conditions. They trigger mild electrical signals to block pain signals from reaching the brain, and are effective in relieving chronic pain.

Instead of constant pain, patients will only feel a tingling or numbing sensation. However, since such devices function on batteries, the patient will require additional surgery to replace the batteries every few years.

To counter this, the new device aims to eliminate the need for invasive surgery for battery replacement. Measuring "as small as a rice grain" (approximately 12 millimetres long), it will pave the way for smaller neurostimulators that are not dependent on bulky batteries.

The technology behind this device is a microchip that enables highly-efficient wireless data transmission and ultra-low power signal acquisition. Upon surgical implantation into the patient near the spinal nerves, the device will deliver electrical pulses that effectively blocks pain signals coming from the source of the pain while being powered wirelessly in real-time.

The IME-Biospark partnership targets to develop a functional prototype in a year's time; and will conduct extensive clinical studies to ensure patient safety in large-scale deployment.

"Medical technologies such as implantable electronics are increasingly shaping the future of health care, providing quality treatment and convenience to patients. IME's collaborations with the industry, including local enterprises such as Biospark, will continue to catalyse the growth of impactful innovations that deliver value to the healthcare community", said Prof. Dim-Lee Kwong, Executive Director of IME.

Biospark's Co-founder and Director Long Qiongzhen added, "Biospark is excited to be able to make a real difference in the lives of chronic pain patients throughout the world. IME's deep technological know-how will significantly accelerate the commercial readiness of our products.


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