Loss of tactile sensation is a common occurrence in patients with traumatic peripheral nerve injury or soft tissue loss, but as yet, solutions for restoring such sensation are limited. Implanted neuro-prosthetics are a promising direction for tactile sensory restoration, but available technologies have substantial shortcomings, including complexity of use and of production and the need for an external power supply. In this work, we propose, fabricate, and demonstrate the use of a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG) as a relatively simple, self-powered, biocompatible, sensitive, and flexible device for restoring tactile sensation. This integrated tactile TENG (TENG-IT) device is implanted under the skin and translates tactile pressure into electrical potential, which it relays via cuff electrodes to healthy sensory nerves, thereby stimulating them, to mimic tactile sensation. We show that the device elicits electrical activity in sensory neurons in vitro, and that the extent of this activity is dependent on the level of tactile pressure applied to the device. We subsequently demonstrate the TENG-IT in vivo, showing that it provides tactile sensation capabilities (as measured by a von Frey test) to rats in which sensation in the hindfoot was blocked through transection of the distal tibial nerve. These findings point to the substantial potential of self-powered TENG-based implanted devices as a means of restoring tactile sensation.
- implanted biosensor
- peripheral nerve injury
- tactile restoration
- triboelectric effect nano generator