What are Implantables?

Implantables are devices that are implanted into the body, traditionally to augment or restore function. Examples include pacemakers, orthopedic implants, and Cochlear implants. These devices have been tremendously successful over the past 40+ years in restoring function to those with health conditions or who have suffered injury. Notable examples include hundreds of thousands of patients now able to hear through Cochlear implants, millions of stents implanted each year worldwide, collagen meniscus implants, cutting-edge neural interfaces, and many more.

Active devices have the ability to restore sensation and control. For example, new brain-machine interfaces can allow users to control a prosthetic arm. By integrating with the central nervous system, it’s possible to form a closed-loop with two-way communication between the user and the device. This could be used to restore a wide variety of functions, where the user’s intentions are conveyed through worn or implanted devices. However, the ability to simultaneously record large numbers of neurons and also stimulate neurons in a predictable manner is a major challenge. Biomaterials and soft devices are also needed to avoid unwanted compatibility issues with the body, and the design of these materials must account for physical properties (e.g., softness, stretchability) as well as surface chemistry and the effect on nearby cells over long periods.