Back pain tech five years away: NICTA

Back pain tech five years away: NICTA

Summary: 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.

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(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.

Topics: Government, Government AU

Luke Hopewell

About Luke Hopewell

A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

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2 comments
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  • Hmm...a device that masks your mind to the fact that your back is about to break doesn't sound right to me. I understand the application and the intent. However, I would hope that people normally take pain killers to get through a period so that they can address the longer term issue downstream instead of implanting something that will eliminate your body warning you against stretching too far beyond its limits.
    binary0
  • I actually have a current version of this in my spine to counter chronic pain and it has given me my life back. I am not completely pain free but it has reduced enough for me to reduce and on somedays cut out pain medication. I am still however aware enough of what is going on in my back to be able to feel when something is triggering any adverse feelings. Look forward to a smaller stronger version.
    coach16-18496