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Has anyone seen research like this idea?

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  • Has anyone seen research like this idea?

    I've had a concept for an SCI "cure" in my head for a long time...since my injury really. It was one of the first things I thought of when I started thinking about ways to cure SCIs. Since that time I've read dozens of research papers and scanned hundreds more and I've never seen anything like this so I'm going to put it out there in case anyone else has heard or read of such things.

    I'm a sensors person. I have a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering and I've used that background to design and characterize sensors of various types for the last 30+ years. So I'm used to thinking in terms of moving signals around.

    The idea I had was to bypass the injury area entirely. For those with longer injury sites (mine is a T3-T7) you would lose all function from the site permanently with this approach because the concept is to literally bypass that site.

    So here's how it might work:
    1. The cord would need to be cleanly cut above and below the site.
    2. The freshly cut cord would be attached to a CCD array that has been embedded in laboratory-grown tissue designed to supply bloodflow, etc. to the cord-CCD interface.
    3. The two CCD arrays (above and below the injury site) would detect cord signals (chemical reactions on the surface of the CCDs) and transmit them to the other CCD.
    4. Upon receipt of a signal from the other CCD the recipient CCD would then cause a chemical reaction at its own CCD-to-cord interface.

    Essentially the CCDs are being used as chemical reaction detectors and emitters.

    Once you can get signals across the injury site, one would need extensive training to get the brain to remap all the new connections, but neuroplasticity should make that possible.

    The big unknown part for me lies in what potentials and reactions would be needed at the CCD-to-cord interface.

    There are lots of other issues like preventing axon degradation at the interface or how to prevent movement of the CCD-to-cord interface, etc., but the concept should work in principle.

    Anyone ever hear of anything like this?
    T3 complete since Sept 2015.

  • #2
    I am getting my PhD as well, but not in materials science and engineering...what is a CCD?

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    • #3
      CCD is a receiver. Let's say it works. You also need a transmitter in both directions. How do you do that?

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      • #4
        Total dummy here, but wouldn't the volume of information be overwhelming?

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        • #5
          CCDs are typically used as imaging arrays, but the fab methods and multilayer structures have been used to make transducer arrays. It wouldn't be an off-the-shelf CCD.

          As to the amount of data, this would be a passive device that just converts the electrochemical signals into electrical signals, then back to electrochemical signals at the other side.
          T3 complete since Sept 2015.

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          • #6
            An interesting concept, but I think the neurotransmitter die-back which occurs when messed-with, would throw a wrench in the works. Similarly to how it does when initial injury occurs.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Andy View Post
              An interesting concept, but I think the neurotransmitter die-back which occurs when messed-with, would throw a wrench in the works. Similarly to how it does when initial injury occurs.
              Can you elaborate?
              I was concerned about neurotransmitter depletion and that's why I added the "embedded in artificial flesh to provide bloodflow, etc." or however I stated it. I know the sensor-to-axon interface is going to be the real challenge.
              T3 complete since Sept 2015.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Mize View Post
                Can you elaborate?
                I was concerned about neurotransmitter depletion and that's why I added the "embedded in artificial flesh to provide bloodflow, etc." or however I stated it. I know the sensor-to-axon interface is going to be the real challenge.
                I think the term is glial scar? Something like that.

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                • #9
                  Ah. Gotcha. So I don't know, but my thinking was your cut the cord above and below the glial scarring/injury area then somehow connect the freshly-cut axons to the sensor array thing using some combination of laboratory-grown flesh and surgical glue. Whether or not that stops the body from then growing more glial stuff in there I have no clue.
                  T3 complete since Sept 2015.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Mize View Post
                    CCDs are typically used as imaging arrays, but the fab methods and multilayer structures have been used to make transducer arrays. It wouldn't be an off-the-shelf CCD.

                    As to the amount of data, this would be a passive device that just converts the electrochemical signals into electrical signals, then back to electrochemical signals at the other side.
                    I'm much more familiar with the cellular environment of the injury site side of things, but I can't imagine a way in which electrochemical signals can be converted into electrical signals, and then back into the appropriate electrochemical signals that will reach their intended targets.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Mize View Post
                      Ah. Gotcha. So I don't know, but my thinking was your cut the cord above and below the glial scarring/injury area then somehow connect the freshly-cut axons to the sensor array thing using some combination of laboratory-grown flesh and surgical glue. Whether or not that stops the body from then growing more glial stuff in there I have no clue.
                      Once axons below an SCI are no longer connected to a neuron, the axons disintegrate. There are no axons below the injury that aren't connected to a neuron above or below the injury. So the real challenge would be finding a way to connect this electrical signal bridge to neurons below the injury, which may not even be there anymore. Then, you'd also have to deal with intrinsic synaptic plasticity after you put the electrical array in - the spinal cord below the original injury will surely remodel itself quite a bit once it starts receiving information again from this array (as well as the spinal cord above the injury once it starts receiving sensory input from below). As for the extra gliosis, you're almost certain to have some if you completely cut out the spinal cord above and below the injury.

                      I'm curious as to why you'd need to completely cut out any remaining tissue. As you said, with your idea, one would lose any function at the spinal segments in which this theoretical array is implanted. For a t3-t7 injury like yours, this means losing a lot of trunk muscle function that aids in posture, locomotion, coughing - all things I'd imagine you'd want a curative therapy to address. Why would there be a need to completely get rid of the spinal cord at the affected segments?

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by tomsonite View Post
                        Once axons below an SCI are no longer connected to a neuron, the axons disintegrate. There are no axons below the injury that aren't connected to a neuron above or below the injury. So the real challenge would be finding a way to connect this electrical signal bridge to neurons below the injury, which may not even be there anymore. Then, you'd also have to deal with intrinsic synaptic plasticity after you put the electrical array in - the spinal cord below the original injury will surely remodel itself quite a bit once it starts receiving information again from this array (as well as the spinal cord above the injury once it starts receiving sensory input from below). As for the extra gliosis, you're almost certain to have some if you completely cut out the spinal cord above and below the injury.

                        I'm curious as to why you'd need to completely cut out any remaining tissue. As you said, with your idea, one would lose any function at the spinal segments in which this theoretical array is implanted. For a t3-t7 injury like yours, this means losing a lot of trunk muscle function that aids in posture, locomotion, coughing - all things I'd imagine you'd want a curative therapy to address. Why would there be a need to completely get rid of the spinal cord at the affected segments?
                        Well, I'm facing that loss daily as it is, but, to answer your question, one needn't remove the injured material, but this approach would bypass it. Essentially the concept relies on connecting nerves to a planar sensor array, hence the "need" to completely cut the cord so it can be attached to the array.

                        Lower spine axon/nerve death is a big issue.
                        T3 complete since Sept 2015.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by tomsonite View Post
                          I'm much more familiar with the cellular environment of the injury site side of things, but I can't imagine a way in which electrochemical signals can be converted into electrical signals, and then back into the appropriate electrochemical signals that will reach their intended targets.
                          I'm not sure what your question is here. A-B Electrochemical->Electrical->B-A Electrochemical transduction should be a huge challenge compared to the attachment and the lower-spine atrophy you mentioned.
                          T3 complete since Sept 2015.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Mize View Post
                            I'm not sure what your question is here. A-B Electrochemical->Electrical->B-A Electrochemical transduction should be a huge challenge compared to the attachment and the lower-spine atrophy you mentioned.
                            In a fully intact nervous system, the thought "I'm going to move my toe" originates in the brain; an electrical gradient passes from a brain neuron down into the spinal cord. At the end of that axon, chemicals jump across a synapse to another neuron that originates within the spinal cord, and starts another electrical signal that makes its way to a muscle, where more chemicals jump across a synapse on to a muscle, signalling the muscle to contract.

                            Then, sensory receptors within the muscle set off an electrical reaction that travels back up to a neuron that (most often) lies just outside the spinal cord. This neuron then sends this electrical signal back in to the spinal cord, where the electrical signal travels up another axon to the brain, where finally, chemicals jump across a synapse on to another neuron in the sensory cortex (more or less, its actually a little more complicated) where you feel the sensation of your toe moving, receiving confirmation that you have moved your toe.

                            My question is, how would your theoretical array be able to correctly interpret this "move my toe" signal from the brain, convert it to an electrical (digital?) signal, then on the other end make sure the "move my toe" signal gets to the neuron/axon that does indeed move your toe, rather than send it to an axon that will facilitate digestion, for instance? And on the other end, how will the sensory information from the toe moving be processed in this theoretical array, so that it gets sent back up to the brain so that you feel your toe move, rather than feel something else happening somewhere else in the body?

                            I'm not trying to challenge you, just trying to understand if you've thought of these things and how it would work - again, I've got no foundation of materials or engineering or anything like that.

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                            • #15
                              Ah, I see.

                              I propose that this dual-array, transduction device is dumb. It does no processing. It simply detects the downward signal, transmits it (via wire) to the lower array where the lower array then reproduces the signal for the lower spine. Upon the return signal the process is reversed.

                              Undoubtedly the downward and upward signals won't align with the right/original neurons so I would rely on intensive training and neuroplasticity to remap those connections within the brain.
                              T3 complete since Sept 2015.

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