Scoliosis is a growth disorder that results in a curved spine. This can lead to deformity and pain. Research indicates that it is actually caused by a problem with the central nervous system; signals to the muscles that hold the spine in place are not sent equally to both sides.

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems IPMS have come up with a solution. They have created a small implantable device that emits electrical impulses to stimulate the muscles on the “weak” side of the spine. It emits 50 pulses per second in bursts of ten seconds every ten minutes. Treatment sessions last six to eight hours, and are most effective when used at night or other rest periods. The device uses a rechargeable battery designed to last about nine days between charges. It includes an inductive coil so that the battery can be recharged wirelessly. The device also has sensors that can record muscle activity during active and resting states, which is sent wirelessly to an external reader.

The device is still in the prototype stage, but initial tests are promising. It could lead to a non-invasive and effective alternative to the limiting corsets or spinal-fusion operations that are the current choices for treating the condition. The next step is to conduct clinical studies to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of this stimulating implant.