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17 Jul 2017

Cell stimulation device for use in medical prostheses

Scientists at the Instituto de Microelectrónica de Barcelona (IMB-CNM) have developed a device based on nanogenerators for the electrical stimulation of cells, without the need of bulky electrodes or instruments. The advancement has applications in health for bone regeneration in prostheses or the rehabilitation of muscular atrophy.



Current research is looking for more effective and less invasive technologies in the treatment of bone and muscle injuries. This is the first time that nanogenerators are used for the electrical stimulation of cells. It is possible thanks to the piezoelectric potential that the nanostructures generate on the cell.

“The device generates cellular electrical stimulation; this can have different effects on cells and, among them, therapeutic effects”, explains Gonzalo Murillo (IMB-CNM-CSIC), one of the project researchers, and adds that the goal is the biomedical application in cases such as “bone regeneration after prosthetic surgery, muscle toning or peripheral electrical stimulation”.

The device would achieve a faster recovery for the patient. It can self-generate energy for cellular electrical activation, without the use of external electrodes or stimuli. It also stimulates cell proliferation and differentiation.

Saos‐2 cells are cultured on top of piezoelectric nanogenerators (NGs) based on ZnO nanosheets for electrical self‐stimulation by Gonzalo Murillo, Carme Nogués, and co‐workers in article number 1605048. Imaging by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) shows that the cells are firmly adhered to the nanosheets. The cells show excellent viability, proliferation, and differentiation. The NGs can be used to electrically self‐stimulate different types of cells, such as neurons or muscle cells, without applying a chemical or physical external stimulation, leading to future bioelectronic medicines based on cell‐targeted local electrical impulses.