Back pain tech five years away: NICTA

A chip to counter pain as it travels up the spinal cord could be available within five years, according to the doctors and National ICT Australia (NICTA) researchers developing it.

(Credit: NICTA)

A chip to counter pain as it travels up the spinal cord could be available within five years, according to the doctors and National ICT Australia (NICTA) researchers developing it.

Showcasing his research at NICTA Techfest 2011 yesterday, NICTA CTO of implant technologies, Dr John Parker, told ZDNet Australia that the technology, designed to help in sufferers of chronic pain, could be available for implant within five years.

"With all of these technologies, it's a long process to develop them, but maybe four or five years," Parker said.

The chip works by implanting a stimulator near the spinal column and running an electrode array into the epidural space of the spinal cord. Pain signals sent to the brain are countered by a 10-volt electrical pulse generated by the device which fools the brain into thinking it is not experiencing pain.

Parker said that NICTA's new chronic pain treatment technology is considerably smaller than previous implant technologies, with innovations in the electrode array making it stronger and safer to develop and deploy.

"Our electrode is 16 channels instead of the traditional eight and it's made from a material … which is a tight carbon fibre and 16 times stronger than steel, yet still very flexible," Parker said.

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