Scientists in Spain and France have developed a new implant designed to help children with scoliosis, abnormal curvature of the spine. Developed at NADAR Computerized Medical Systems in Langreo, Spain, the implant uses a hydraulic piston to apply a force between two points along the spine—gradually straightening the excess bend, according to New Scientist. As the child grows and the spine expands, doctors would send a wireless signal to adjust the implant—which has been tested in sheep but is at least three years away from human trials—opening a valve that moves fluid from the implant's reservoir into the piston to increase the implant's hydraulic pressure. The device, described in the journal Mechatronics, is removed completely once the spine is straight. If successful, this hydraulic implant could replace back braces or, in more extreme cases, spinal fusion surgery to graft sections of bone or metal rods onto the spine to help straighten it. The hydraulic implant can be used in young children and can be adjusted as they grow, whereas these other approaches cannot be performed until a child is almost fully grown (by then their scoliosis has grown worse over time). Scoliosis affects up to four children in every thousand, with girls accounting for 80 percent of the cases.
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