Background: The regenerative peripheral nerve interface is an internal interface for signal transduction with external electronics of prosthetic limbs; it consists of an electrode and a unit of free muscle that is neurotized by a transected residual peripheral nerve. Adding a conductive polymer coating on electrodes improves electrode conductivity. This study examines regenerative peripheral nerve interface tissue viability and signal fidelity in the presence of an implanted electrode coated or uncoated with a conductive polymer.
Methods: In a rat model, the extensor digitorum longus muscle was moved as a nonvascularized free tissue transfer and neurotized by the divided peroneal nerve. Either a stainless steel pad electrode (n = 8) or a pad electrode coated with poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) conductive polymer (PEDOT) (n = 8) was implanted on the muscle transfer and secured with an encircling acellular extracellular matrix. The contralateral muscle served as the control.
Results: The free muscle transfers were successfully revascularized and over time reinnervated as evidenced by serial insertional needle electromyography. Compound muscle action potentials were successfully transduced through the regenerative peripheral nerve interface. The conductive polymer coating on the implanted electrode resulted in increased recorded signal amplitude that was observed throughout the course of the study. Histologic examination confirmed axonal sprouting, elongation, and synaptogenesis within regenerative peripheral nerve interface regardless of electrode type.
Conclusions: The regenerative peripheral nerve interface remains viable over seven months in the presence of an implanted electrode. Electrodes with and without conductive polymer reliably transduced signals from the regenerative peripheral nerve interface. Electrodes with a conductive polymer coating resulted in recording more of the regenerative peripheral nerve interface signal.