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Proof-of-concept of a Novel Coupling System for Transcutaneous Energy Transmission for Functional Electrical Stimulation
Gregor Laengle, MD1, Eleonora Friedberg, Medical Student2, Clemens Gstoettner, MD1, Patrick Kiele, PhD Student3, Christian Pasluosta, Dr. Phil.3, Martin Schuettler, Dr.4, Martin Schmoll, PhD1, Christian Hofer, Dr.5, Thomas Stieglitz, Prof. Dr.6 and Oskar C. Aszmann, MD, PhD7, (1)Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria, (2)Medical University Vienna, Vienna, Austria, (3)University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany, (4)CorTec GmbH, Freiburg, Germany, (5)Otto Bock Healthcare Products GmbH, Vienna, Austria, (6)Universit├Ąt Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany, (7)CD Laboratory for Restoration of Extremity Function, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

Introduction:
Bionic prosthesis use a neuromuscular interface to convey signals between patient and device. Currently, this transmission happens via superficial electrodes lying on the skin. Implantable technologies experience a remarkable development in the field of research and have great benefits in terms of signal quality and reliability, however, energy supply must be warranted. Usually, inductive coupling or implanted batteries are deployed. Here, we would like to present a novel wireless transcutaneous coupling method for neural interfacing, which can be utilized for generating sensory feedback in a bionic hand through neural stimulation.

Methods:
In a sciatic nerve model of the rat, we implanted a nerve cuff electrode connected to subcutaneous electrodes, which wirelessly receive current from an external counterpart for neural stimulation. Reference measurement through a head connector gave information on coupling and impedance characteristics. Measured outcomes were properties of wireless energy coupling, visual and electromyographic activity of the respective muscle groups. Biocompatibility of the implant was assessed with histological analysis of the fibrous capsule and neuromuscular tissue.

Results:
Wireless stimulation of the sciatic nerve showed successful muscle activity. The muscular response was proportional to the applied current. Crosstalk and impedance between the electrodes were acceptable. The application of electrode gel could significantly improve energy coupling properties.

Conclusion:
In this pilot experiment we were able to prove the in-vivo application of this new wireless coupling method for neural stimulation. First results indicate good biocompatibility. Further investigations should focus on longevity and selectivity of the system.


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