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'Bionic Face' to Treat Hemifacial Palsy

'Bionic Face' to Treat Hemifacial Palsy

Tuesday, 8 January, 2019 - 07:30
A paralyzed rat walks on its hind legs during an experiment. (May 31, 2012) (SUPPLIED PHOTO / REUTERS)
London - Asharq Al-Awsat
Aiming at treating one-sided facial paralysis (hemifacial palsy), US scientists have developed a new implantable device that may help in restoring more natural facial movement in patients.

According to the German News Agency, initial experiments conducted on mice by Nate Jowet, from Harvard Medical School, revealed promising results with a "bionic face" approach to facial reanimation using electrical signals from the uninjured side of the face to trigger muscle movement on the paralyzed side.

The Science Daily website cited Lead Author Jowet saying that hemifacial palsy is a "devastating clinical condition" leading to functional, aesthetic, and communication problems. While reconstructive surgery approaches such as nerve and muscle transfers can restore some facial movement.

These techniques have important shortcomings, for example, while patients may regain some ability to smile, it requires a conscious effort to do so.

The researchers implanted tiny electrically-shielded electrodes around the facial nerve of rats with experimentally induced hemifacial palsy. Electrical stimulation was delivered to produce eye blinks and whisker movements.

While the preliminary experiments in rats are encouraging, researchers stressed there's a long way to go before the "bionic face" can be applied on humans.

The authors plan further studies to develop a miniaturized, fully implantable neuroprosthetic device for hemifacial reanimation.

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