Polymer Polypyrrole plastics can help regrow hearing nerves
Scientists are building a new bionic ear coated in a smart plastic that boosts the growth of nerve cells in the inner ear when it's zapped with electricity.
The technology, which also has potential for healing spinal cord injuries, is being developed at the Australian Centre for Medical Bionics and Hearing Science, part of Melbourne's Bionic Ear Institute.
Collaborator, Professor Gordon Wallace of the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute at the University of Wollongong, says the polymer polypyrrole is unusual because unlike most plastics, it can conduct electricity.
It can also act as a host structure for the molecules that stimulate nerve regrowth, known as neurotrophins.
Passing a small electric current through the plastic releases the molecules and helps to reverse the death and degeneration of hearing cells that occurs after prolonged deafness.
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