A device, called StimDust, is now the smallest volume, most efficient wireless nerve stimulator.
Created by UC Berkeley engineers, the invention adds safe, tiny electronics to neural dust applications. Neural dust is a term used to describe millimeter-sized, wirelessly powered devices that function as nerve sensors. Main application include controlling, monitoring, and studying nerves and muscles.
StimDust will be implanted in the body to provide real-time treatment and observations. It measures 6.5 cubic millimeters in volume, and receives wireless power from ultrasound. Results show that the device can achieve nerve stimulation at 82 percent efficiency, powered by four microwatts.
The research team believes StimDust is an order of magnitude smaller than current systems on the market today.
“StimDust is the smallest deep-tissue stimulator that we are aware of that’s capable of stimulating almost all of the major therapeutic targets in the peripheral nervous system,” says Rikky Muller, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at Berkeley, and co-leader of the research.
“This device represents our vision of having tiny devices that can be implanted in minimally invasive ways to modulate or stimulate the peripheral nervous system, which has been shown to be efficacious in treating a number of diseases,” Muller adds.
The nerve stimulator holds a number of vital components. A single piezocrystal acts as the system’s antenna. Joining the design is a one-charge storage capacitor and one-millimeter integrated circuit. Electrodes are located on the bottom of the device, which touch the nerve via a cuff.
Researchers also developed a wireless protocol to enhance programmability.
Recently, the team performed lab tests in a live rodent, and were able to control hind leg motion. Next, StimDust will undergo further testing to hopefully create an intelligent, sophisticated way to treat diseases, such as asthma, epilepsy, and chronic pain.