Gold is once again at the forefront of technological innovation; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology is testing a newly developed implant that has been shown to circumvent spinal cord damage in rats – thanks to a specialized gold conductor.
Part of the reason why spinal injuries are difficult to repair is because the spine works by being able to stretch and flex. Implants that attempt to restore electrical connections lost from an injury lack this flexibility – creating sheering, rubbing, inflammation, and potentially, further injury. Flexible substances like rubber, latex, and plastic, are non-conductive and ill-suited for creating these implants – that’s where gold comes in.
The “e-dura” device (named for the dura mater, one of the membranes that protects the spinal cord) created by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology uses a flexible polymer for the structure and gold as the conductor. The gold is layered just 35 nanometers thick with tiny cracks that allow the material to stretch and compress while still conducting electricity.
This is exactly the type of advancement we expected to come from stretchable gold. After more research is conducted, the e-dura may also have the potential to help Parkinson’s disease and pain management patients.