(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) Surgeons from UC Davis Medical Center have demonstrated that artificial muscles can restore the ability of patients with facial paralysis to blink, a development that could benefit the thousands of people each year who no longer are able to close their eyelids due to combat-related injuries, stroke, nerve injury or facial surgery.
In addition, the technique, which uses a combination of electrode leads and silicon polymers, could be used to develop synthetic muscles to control other parts of the body. The new procedure is described in an article in the January-February issue of the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery.
"This is the first-wave use of artificial muscle in any biological system," said Travis Tollefson, a facial plastic surgeon in the UC Davis Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. "But there are many ideas and concepts where this technology may play a role."
In their study, Tollefson and his colleagues were seeking to develop the protocol and device design for human implantation of electroactive polymer artificial muscle (EPAM) to reproducibly create a long-lasting eyelid blink that will protect the eye and improve facial appearance. EPAM is an emerging technology that has the potential for use in rehabilitating facial movement in patients with paralysis. Electroactive polymers act like human muscles by expanding and contracting, based on variable voltage input levels.
For people with other types of paralysis, the use of artificial muscles could someday mean regaining the ability to smile or control the bladder. Reanimating faces is a natural first step in developing synthetic muscles to control other parts of the body, said UC Davis otolaryngologist Craig Senders.
"Facial muscles require relatively low forces, much less than required to move the fingers or flex an arm," said Senders.
Blinking is an essential part of maintaining a healthy eye. The lid wip
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University of California - Davis - Health System