Background: Regenerative Peripheral Nerve Interfaces (RPNIs) are neurotized muscle grafts intended to produce electromyographic signals suitable for motorized prosthesis control. Two RPNIs producing independent agonist/antagonist signals are required for each control axis; however, it is unknown whether signals from adjacent RPNIs are independent. The purpose of this work was to determine signaling characteristics from two adjacent RPNIs, the first neurotized by a foot dorsi-flexor nerve and the second neurotized by a foot plantar-flexor nerve in a rodent model.
Methods: Two Control group rats had electrodes implanted onto the soleus (tibial nerve) and extensor digitorum longus (peroneal nerve) muscles in the left hind limb. Two Dual-RPNI group rats had two separate muscles grafted to the left thigh and each implanted with electrodes: the extensor digitorum longus was neurotized with a transected fascicle from the tibial nerve, and the tibialis anterior was implanted with a transected peroneal nerve. Four months post-surgery, rats walked on a treadmill, were videographed, and electromyographic signals were recorded. Amplitude and periodicity of all signals relative to gait period were quantified. To facilitate comparisons across groups, electromyographic signals were expressed as a percent of total stepping cycle activity for each stance and swing gait phase. Independence between peroneal and tibial nerve activations were assessed by statistical comparisons between groups during stance and swing.
Results: Electromyographic activity for Control and Dual-RPNI rats displayed alternating activation patterns coinciding with stance and swing. Significant signal amplitude differences between the peroneal and tibial nerves were found in both the Control and Dual-RPNI groups. Non-inferiority tests performed on Dual-RPNI group signal confidence intervals showed that activation was equivalent to the Control group in all but the peroneal RPNI construct during stance. The similar electromyographic activity obtained for Control and RPNI suggests the latter constructs activate independently during both stance and swing, and contain minimal crosstalk.
Conclusions: In-vivo myoelectric RPNI activity encodes neural activation patterns associated with gait. Adjacent RPNIs neurotized with agonist/antagonist nerves display activity amplitudes similar to Control during voluntary walking. The distinct and expected activation patterns indicate the RPNI may provide independent signaling in humans, suitable for motorized prosthesis control.
Keywords: Amputees; Peripheral nerve interface; Prosthetics; Regenerative medicine.