Research

The Problem

Millions of people suffer from debilitating medical conditions that could, in theory, be effectively treated by modulating neural pathways within the spinal cord. The most prevalent of these conditions is intractable chronic back and leg pain that cannot be relieved by any currently available therapies. Many patients have undergone multiple spinal surgeries yet still suffer constant, severe pain resistant to all medical and surgical treatments.

Pain signals that originate from injured tissue and dysfunctional nerves are conducted to the brain by neural pathways within the spinal cord and are perceived consciously. Experimental animal studies show that pain signaling can be disrupted, or modulated, by delivering electrical stimuli to targeted pathways within the spinal cord. HSCMS is designed to translate this concept into a surgical system that will reliably provide relief to patients

Current Technology

Electrical stimulation of the human spine was first introduced more than 50 years ago, and conventional “spinal cord stimulators” are now used routinely in clinical practice. These devices deliver electrical currents through electrodes placed outside of the fibrous membrane (dura) of the spinal canal. However, several millimeters of highly conductive cerebrospinal fluid separate the site of electrical stimulation from the targeted regions of the spinal cord. This fluid shunts away stimuli to such a degree that less than 1% of human spinal cord tissue can be accessed and modulated by standard stimulators. The inability of existing spinal cord stimulators to deliver effective stimuli to targeted regions of the spinal cord accounts for the poor results observed in about half of chronic pain patients implanted with these devices.

The HSCMS Solution

The HSCMS concept is the result of a systematic research and medical device development campaign by a consortium of highly experienced neurosurgeons-scientists, pain researchers, medical physicists, and medical device manufacturing specialists. This group examined the feasibility of delivering electrical stimuli directly to the human spinal cord, making creative use of contemporary advances in materials sciences, microelectronics, and device fabrication methods. The result, the HSCMS, is designed to enable physicians to safely and selectively deliver electrical stimuli directly to any pathway within the human spinal cord. This is the first clinical system that positions electrodes in stable locations on the surface and within the substance of the spinal cord, without impeding the normal movements of the cord within the spinal canal.

Computer modeling and preliminary experiments have demonstrated that the first HSCMS prototype will activate at least 100 times the number of targeted axons compared to standard spinal cord stimulators. In addition, the HSCMS will for the first time deliver stimuli to regions of the spinal cord (e.g., those that process pain signals from the low back region of the body) that cannot be selectively modulated with existing devices.

Information pamphlet