News Column

"Electrode Cuffs" in Patent Application Approval Process

July 2, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Journal of Engineering -- A patent application by the inventors BEN-DAVID, Tamir (Tel Aviv, IL); AYAL, Shai (Shoham, IL); COHEN, Ehud (Ganei Tikva, IL), filed on February 18, 2014, was made available online on June 19, 2014, according to news reporting originating from Washington, D.C., by VerticalNews correspondents.

This patent application is assigned to Bio Control Medical (b.c.m.) Ltd.

The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "A number of patents and articles describe methods and devices for stimulating nerves to achieve a desired effect. Often these techniques include a design for an electrode or electrode cuff.

"US Patent Application Publication 2010/0010603 to Ben-David et al., which is assigned to the assignee of the present application and is incorporated herein by reference, describes apparatus for application to a nerve of a subject. The apparatus includes a housing, which is configured to be placed at least partially around the nerve so as to define an inner surface of the housing that faces the nerve. A plurality of insulating elements are coupled to the inner surface of the housing at respective insulating element longitudinal positions along the housing, such that the inner surface of the housing and pairs of the insulating elements define one or more respective cavities at respective cavity longitudinal positions along the housing. One or more electrodes are fixed to the housing in fewer than all of the cavities. Other embodiments are also described.

"PCT Publication WO 03/099377 to Ayal et al., which is assigned to the assignee of the present application and is incorporated herein by reference, describes apparatus for treating a subject, which includes an electrode device, adapted to be coupled to a vagus nerve of the subject, and a heart rate sensor, configured to detect a heart rate of the subject, and to generate a heart rate signal responsive thereto. The apparatus also includes a control unit, adapted to receive the heart rate signal, and, responsive to determining that the heart rate is greater than a threshold value, which threshold value is greater than a normal heart rate, drive the electrode device to apply a current to the vagus nerve, and configure the current so as to reduce the heart rate of the subject.

"U.S. Pat. No. 6,907,295 to Gross et al., which is assigned to the assignee of the present application and is incorporated herein by reference, describes apparatus for applying current to a nerve. A cathode is adapted to be placed in a vicinity of a cathodic longitudinal site of the nerve and to apply a cathodic current to the nerve. A primary inhibiting anode is adapted to be placed in a vicinity of a primary anodal longitudinal site of the nerve and to apply a primary anodal current to the nerve. A secondary inhibiting anode is adapted to be placed in a vicinity of a secondary anodal longitudinal site of the nerve and to apply a secondary anodal current to the nerve, the secondary anodal longitudinal site being closer to the primary anodal longitudinal site than to the cathodic longitudinal site.

"US Patent Application Publication 2006/0106441 to Ayal et al., which is assigned to the assignee of the present application and is incorporated herein by reference, describes apparatus for applying current to a nerve, including a housing, adapted to be placed in a vicinity of the nerve, and at least one cathode and at least one anode, fixed to the housing. The apparatus further includes two or more passive electrodes, fixed to the housing, and a conducting element, which electrically couples the passive electrodes to one another.

"U.S. Pat. No. 4,608,985 to Crish et al. and U.S. Pat. No. 4,649,936 to Ungar et al., which are incorporated herein by reference, describe electrode cuffs for selectively blocking orthodromic action potentials passing along a nerve trunk, in a manner intended to avoid causing nerve damage.

"PCT Patent Publication WO 01/10375 to Felsen et al., which is incorporated herein by reference, describes apparatus for modifying the electrical behavior of nervous tissue. Electrical energy is applied with an electrode to a nerve in order to selectively inhibit propagation of an action potential.

"U.S. Pat. No. 5,755,750 to Petruska et al., which is incorporated herein by reference, describes techniques for selectively blocking different size fibers of a nerve by applying direct electric current between an anode and a cathode that is larger than the anode.

"U.S. Pat. No. 5,824,027 Hoffer et al., which is incorporated herein by reference, describes a nerve cuff having one or more sets of electrodes for selectively recording electrical activity in a nerve or for selectively stimulating regions of the nerve. Each set of electrodes is located in a longitudinally-extending chamber between a pair of longitudinal ridges which project into the bore of the nerve cuff. The ridges are electrically insulating and serve to improve the selectivity of the nerve cuff. The ridges seal against an outer surface of the nerve without penetrating the nerve. In an embodiment, circumferential end sealing ridges extend around the bore at each end of the longitudinal ridges, and are described as enhancing the electrical and/or fluid isolation between different ones of the longitudinally-extending chambers.

"U.S. Pat. No. 4,628,942 to Sweeney et al., which is incorporated herein by reference, describes an annular electrode cuff positioned around a nerve trunk for imposing electrical signals on to the nerve trunk for the purpose of generating unidirectionally propagated action potentials. The electrode cuff includes an annular cathode having a circular passage therethrough of a first diameter. An annular anode has a larger circular passage therethrough of a second diameter, which second diameter is about 1.2 to 3.0 times the first diameter. A non-conductive sheath extends around the anode, cathode, and nerve trunk. The anode and cathode are placed asymmetrically to one side of the non-conductive sheath.

"As defined by Rattay, in an article entitled, 'Analysis of models for extracellular fiber stimulation,' IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, Vol. 36, no. 2, p. 676 (1989), which is incorporated herein by reference, the activation function (AF) of an unmyelinated axon is the second spatial derivative of the electric potential along an axon. In the region where the activation function is positive, the axon depolarizes, and in the region where the activation function is negative, the axon hyperpolarizes. If the activation function is sufficiently positive, then the depolarization will cause the axon to generate an action potential; similarly, if the activation function is sufficiently negative, then local blocking of action potentials transmission occurs. The activation function depends on the current applied, as well as the geometry of the electrodes and of the axon.

"For a given electrode geometry, the equation governing the electrical potential is:

".gradient.(.sigma..gradient.U)=4.pi.j,

"where U is the potential, .sigma. is the conductance tensor specifying the conductance of the various materials (electrode housing, axon, intracellular fluid, etc.), and j is a scalar function representing the current source density specifying the locations of current injection. The activation function is found by solving this partial differential equation for U. If an unmyelinated axon is defined to lie in the z direction, then the activation function is:

"AF = .differential. 2 U .differential. z 2 . ##EQU00001##

"In a simple, illustrative example of a point electrode located a distance d from the axis of an axon in a uniformly-conducting medium with conductance .sigma., the two equations above are solvable analytically, to yield:

"AF = I e 1 4 .pi. .sigma. 2 z 2 - d 2 ( z 2 + d 2 ) 2.5 , ##EQU00002##

"where I.sub.el is the electrode current. It is seen that when .sigma. and d are held constant, and for a constant positive T.sub.el (to correspond to anodal current), the minimum value of the activation function is negative, and is attained at z=0, i.e., at the point on the nerve closest to the source of the anodal current. Thus, the most negative point on the activation function corresponds to the place on a nerve where hyperpolarization is maximized, namely at the point on the nerve closest to the anode.

"Additionally, this equation predicts positive 'lobes' for the activation function on either side of z=0, these positive lobes peaking in their values at a distance which is dependent on each of the other parameters in the equation. The positive values of the activation function correspond to areas of depolarization, a phenomenon typically associated with cathodic current, not anodal current. However, it has been shown that excess anodal current does indeed cause the generation of action potentials adjacent to the point on a nerve corresponding to z=0, and this phenomenon is therefore called the 'virtual cathode effect.' (An analogous, but reverse phenomenon, the 'virtual anode effect' exists responsive to excess cathodic stimulation.)

"The Rattay article also describes techniques for calculating the activation function for nerves containing myelinated axons. The activation function in this case varies as a function of the diameter of the axon in question. Thus, the activation function calculated for a 1 micron diameter myelinated axon is different from the activation function calculated for a 10 micron diameter axon.

"The following patents, which are incorporated herein by reference, may be of interest:

"U.S. Pat. No. 6,684,105 to Cohen et al.

"U.S. Pat. No. 5,423,872 to Cigaina

"U.S. Pat. No. 4,573,481 to Bullara

"U.S. Pat. No. 6,230,061 to Hartung

"U.S. Pat. No. 5,282,468 to Klepinski

"U.S. Pat. No. 4,535,785 to van den Honert et al.

"U.S. Pat. No. 5,215,086 to Terry et al.

"U.S. Pat. No. 6,341,236 to Osorio et al.

"U.S. Pat. No. 5,487,756 to Kallesoe et al.

"U.S. Pat. No. 5,634,462 to Tyler et al.

"U.S. Pat. No. 6,456,866 to Tyler et al.

"U.S. Pat. No. 4,602,624 to Naples et al.

"U.S. Pat. No. 6,600,956 to Maschino et al.

"U.S. Pat. No. 5,199,430 to Fang et al.

"The following articles, which are incorporated herein by reference, may be of interest: Ungar I J et al., 'Generation of unidirectionally propagating action potentials using a monopolar electrode cuff,' Annals of Biomedical Engineering, 14:437-450 (1986) Sweeney J D et al., 'An asymmetric two electrode cuff for generation of unidirectionally propagated action potentials,' IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, vol. BME-33(6) (1986) Sweeney J D et al., 'A nerve cuff technique for selective excitation of peripheral nerve trunk regions,' IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 37(7) (1990) Naples G G et al., 'A spiral nerve cuff electrode for peripheral nerve stimulation,' by IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 35(11) (1988) van den Honert C et al., 'Generation of unidirectionally propagated action potentials in a peripheral nerve by brief stimuli,' Science, 206:1311-1312 (1979) van den Honert C et al., 'A technique for collision block of peripheral nerve: Single stimulus analysis,' MP-11, IEEE Trans. Biomed. Eng. 28:373-378 (1981) van den Honert C et al., 'A technique for collision block of peripheral nerve: Frequency dependence,' MP-12, IEEE Trans. Biomed. Eng. 28:379-382 (1981)

"Rijkhoff N J et al., 'Acute animal studies on the use of anodal block to reduce urethral resistance in sacral root stimulation,' IEEE Transactions on Rehabilitation Engineering, 2(2):92-99 (1994) Mushahwar V K et al., 'Muscle recruitment through electrical stimulation of the lumbo-sacral spinal cord,' IEEE Trans Rehabil Eng, 8(1):22-9 (2000) Deurloo K E et al., 'Transverse tripolar stimulation of peripheral nerve: a modelling study of spatial selectivity,' Med Biol Eng Comput, 36(1):66-74 (1998) Tarver W B et al., 'Clinical experience with a helical bipolar stimulating lead,' Pace, Vol. 15, October, Part II (1992) Hoffer J A et al., 'How to use nerve cuffs to stimulate, record or modulate neural activity,' in Neural Prostheses for Restoration of Sensory and Motor Function, Chapin J K et al. (Eds.), CRC Press (1st edition, 2000) Jones J F et al., 'Heart rate responses to selective stimulation of cardiac vagal C fibres in anaesthetized cats, rats and rabbits,' J Physiol 489(Pt 1):203-14 (1995) Evans M S et al., 'Intraoperative human vagus nerve compound action potentials,' Acta Neurol Scand 110:232-238 (2004) Fitzpatrick et al., 'A nerve cuff design for the selective activation and blocking of myelinated nerve fibers,' Ann. Conf. of the IEEE Eng. in Medicine and Biology Soc, 13(2), 906 (1991) Rijkhoff N J et al., 'Orderly recruitment of motoneurons in an acute rabbit model,' Ann. Conf. of the IEEE Eng., Medicine and Biology Soc., 20(5):2564 (1998) Rijkhoff N J et al., 'Selective stimulation of small diameter nerve fibers in a mixed bundle,' Proceedings of the Annual Project Meeting Sensations/Neuros and Mid-Term Review Meeting on the TMR-Network Neuros, April 21-23, 1999, pp. 20-21 (1999) Baratta R et al., 'Orderly stimulation of skeletal muscle motor units with tripolar nerve cuff electrode,' IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 36(8):836-43 (1989)

"The following articles, which are incorporated herein by reference, describe techniques using cuff electrodes to selectively excite peripheral nerve fibers distant from an electrode without exciting nerve fibers close to the electrode: Grill W M et al., 'Inversion of the current-distance relationship by transient depolarization,' IEEE Trans Biomed Eng, 44(1):1-9 (1997) Goodall E V et al., 'Position-selective activation of peripheral nerve fibers with a cuff electrode,' IEEE Trans Biomed Eng, 43(8):851-6 (1996) Veraart C et al., 'Selective control of muscle activation with a multipolar nerve cuff electrode,' IEEE Trans Biomed Eng, 40(7):640-53 (1993) Lertmanorat Z et al., 'A novel electrode array for diameter-dependent control of axonal excitability: a simulation study,' IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering 51(7):1242-1250 (2004)"

In addition to the background information obtained for this patent application, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "In embodiments of the present invention, an electrode cuff for applying current to a nerve comprises a housing, which is configured to placed at least partially around the nerve, and a plurality of insulating elements arranged at respective longitudinal positions along the housing such that an inner surface of the housing and pairs of the insulating elements define respective cavities (i.e., spaces surrounded by portions of the cuff) at respective longitudinal positions along the housing. The cuff further comprises one or more electrodes, fixed to the housing in fewer than all of the cavities. In other words, at least one of the cavities defined by a pair of the insulating elements does not have an electrode positioned therein. The electrode cuff is typically configured such that, after placement of the cuff, respective contact surfaces of the insulating elements at least partially come in physical contact with the nerve, or substantially in physical contact with the nerve, e.g., are less than about 0.5 mm from the surface of the nerve. As used in the present application, including in the claims, an 'electrode' is an electrically conductive element that includes at least one surface that is not electrically insulated.

"Providing the one or more empty cavities results in less physical contact between the contact surfaces of the insulating elements and the nerve for a cuff of a given length, than in a cuff of the same length without such an empty cavity. As a result, providing the empty cavities tends to reduce constriction of the nerve by the cuff, which may reduce side-effects of application of the cuff to the nerve. Providing the empty cavity does not have a material impact on the activation function achieved by the electrode cuff.

"For some applications, providing a cuff having an increased length along the nerve is desirable, e.g., because such an increased length provides greater space for a distribution of electrodes that enables achievement of a desired activation function that could not be achieved with a shorter cuff. Providing the empty cavity enables the lengthening of the cuff without a concomitant increase in insulating element contact surface area.

"There is therefore provided, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, apparatus for application to a nerve of a subject, including an electrode cuff, which includes:

"a housing, configured to be placed at least partially around the nerve so as to define an inner surface of the housing that faces the nerve;

"a plurality of insulating elements coupled to the inner surface of the housing at respective insulating element longitudinal positions along the housing, such that the inner surface of the housing and pairs of the insulating elements define one or more respective cavities at respective cavity longitudinal positions along the housing; and

"one or more electrodes, fixed to the housing in fewer than all of the cavities, such that at least one of the cavities is an empty cavity that does not have an electrode positioned therein.

"For some applications, the apparatus further includes a control unit, coupled to the electrodes, and configured to drive at least a portion of the electrodes to apply a current to the nerve. For some applications, the electrodes include two or more cathode electrodes, and the empty cavity is between and directly adjacent along the cuff to two cavities containing two respective ones of the cathode electrodes. For some applications, the electrodes include two or more anode electrodes, and the empty cavity is between and directly adjacent along the cuff to two cavities containing two respective ones of the anode electrodes. For some applications, the electrodes include two or more cathode electrodes and one or more anode electrodes, and the empty cavity is between and directly adjacent along the cuff to two cavities containing two respective ones of the cathode electrodes. For some applications, the electrodes include two or more anode electrodes and one or more cathode electrodes, and the empty cavity is between and directly adjacent along the cuff to two cavities containing two respective ones of the anode electrodes. For some applications, the plurality of electrodes includes at least one cathode electrode, at least one anode electrode, and two or more passive electrodes, and the apparatus further includes a conducting element, which electrically couples the passive electrodes to one another.

"For some applications,

"the plurality of insulating elements includes at least seven insulating elements, which are arranged along the housing such that the inner surface of the housing and the pairs of insulating elements define first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth cavities, the first cavity closest to an end of the housing, the second adjacent to the first, the third adjacent to the second, the fourth adjacent to the third, the fifth adjacent to the fourth, and the sixth adjacent to the fifth,

"the at least one cathode electrode includes at least one first cathode electrode and at least one second cathode electrode,

"at least a first one of the passive electrodes is fixed to the housing in the first cavity,

"the at least one anode electrode is fixed to the housing in the second cavity,

"the at least one first cathode electrode is fixed to the housing in the third cavity,

"no electrodes are fixed to the housing in the fourth cavity,

"the at least one second cathode electrode is fixed to the housing in the fifth cavity, and

"at least a second one of the passive electrodes is fixed to the housing in the sixth cavity.

"For some applications, the insulating elements are shaped so as to define respective contact surfaces, and the housing and the insulating elements are configured such that the contact surfaces are suitable for being positioned less than 0.5 mm from a surface of the nerve when the housing is placed at least partially around the nerve.

"For some applications, the insulating elements are shaped so as to define respective contact surfaces, and the housing and the insulating elements are configured such that the contact surfaces are suitable for at least partially coming in physical contact with the nerve when the housing is placed at least partially around the nerve.

"For some applications, a length that at least one of the insulating elements protrudes from the housing toward a central axis of the cuff is at least 0.5 mm.

"For some applications, the electrodes are fixed to the housing in a number of the cavities, and a difference between the number of the cavities and a total number of the cavities is an integer between 1 and 3, inclusive, such that between 1 and 3 of the cavities do not have any of the electrodes fixed therein.

"For some applications, the housing has a length of between 10 mm and 14 mm, an outer radius of between 4 mm and 8 mm, an inner radius of between 3 mm and 6 mm; the insulating elements have an outer radius of between 3 mm and 6 mm, and an inner radius of between 2 mm and 3.5 mm; and the plurality of insulating elements includes exactly seven insulating elements, respective edges of which are positioned within the housing at the following respective distances from one end of the housing: 0.0 mm, between 1.3 and 1.7 mm, between 2.7 and 3.3 mm, between 5.1 and 6.3 mm, between 7.1 and 8.7 mm, between 8.5 and 10.3 mm, and between 10.2 and 12.4 mm, and the insulating elements having the following respective widths: between 0.7 and 0.9 mm, between 0.7 and 0.9 mm, between 1.4 and 1.8 mm, between 0.7 and 0.9 mm, between 0.7 and 0.9 mm, between 1.1 and 1.3 mm, and between 0.7 and 0.9 mm.

"For some applications, at least two of the electrodes are fixed to the housing in one of the cavities.

"For some applications, the electrodes include ring electrodes.

"For some applications, the electrodes are fixed to the housing in none of the one or more cavities, such that all of the one or more cavities are empty of electrodes.

"For some applications, the one or more cavities include at least three cavities, and the electrodes are fixed to the housing in at least two of the cavities. For some applications, the one or more cavities include at least four cavities, and the electrodes are fixed to the housing in at least three of the cavities.

"There is further provided, in accordance with an application of the present invention, apparatus for application to a nerve, including:

"a cuff shaped so as to define along a longitudinal axis thereof one or more cavities open to the nerve when the cuff is placed at least partially around the nerve; and

"one or more electrodes, fixed to the cuff in fewer than all of the cavities, such that at least one of the cavities is an empty cavity that does not have an electrode positioned therein.

"For some applications, the electrodes include ring electrodes.

"For some applications, at least two of the electrodes are fixed to the cuff in one of the cavities.

"For some applications, the electrodes are fixed to the cuff in none of the one or more cavities, such that all of the one or more cavities are empty of electrodes.

"For some applications, the apparatus further includes a control unit, coupled to the electrodes, and configured to drive at least a portion of the electrodes to apply a current to the nerve. For some applications, the electrodes include two or more cathode electrodes, and the empty cavity is between and directly adjacent along the cuff to two cavities containing two respective ones of the cathode electrodes. For some applications, the electrodes include two or more anode electrodes, and the empty cavity is between and directly adjacent along the cuff to two cavities containing two respective ones of the anode electrodes. For some applications, the electrodes include two or more cathode electrodes and one or more anode electrodes, and the empty cavity is between and directly adjacent along the cuff to two cavities containing two respective ones of the cathode electrodes. For some applications, the electrodes include two or more anode electrodes and one or more cathode electrodes, and the empty cavity is between and directly adjacent along the cuff to two cavities containing two respective ones of the anode electrodes.

"There is still further provided, in accordance with an application of the present invention, a method including:

"placing, at least partially around a nerve, a cuff shaped so to define along a longitudinal axis thereof one or more cavities open to the nerve, the cuff including one or more electrodes fixed to the cuff in few than all of the cavities, such that at least one of the cavities is an empty cavity that does not have an electrode positioned therein; and

"applying a current to the nerve using at least a portion of the electrodes.

"The present invention will be more fully understood from the following detailed description of embodiments thereof, taken together with the drawings, in which:

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

"FIG. 1 is schematic, cross-sectional illustration of an electrode cuff for applying current to a nerve, in accordance with respective embodiments of the present invention;

"FIG. 2 is a schematic, cross-sectional illustration of another electrode cuff for applying current to a nerve, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

"FIGS. 3 and 4 are graphs modeling calculated activation functions, respectively, when current is applied using electrode cuffs similar to those shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, respectively, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

"FIG. 5 is a schematic, longitudinal cross-sectional view of another electrode cuff for applying current to a nerve, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

"FIG. 6 is a schematic, cross-sectional illustration of yet another electrode cuff for applying current to a nerve, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

"FIG. 7 is a block diagram that schematically illustrates a vagal stimulation system applied to a vagus nerve of a patient, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

"FIG. 8A is a simplified cross-sectional illustration of a multipolar electrode device applied to a vagus nerve, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

"FIG. 8B is a simplified cross-sectional illustration of a generally-cylindrical electrode device applied to a vagus nerve, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention; and

"FIG. 8C is a simplified perspective illustration of the electrode device of FIG. 8A, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention."

URL and more information on this patent application, see: BEN-DAVID, Tamir; AYAL, Shai; COHEN, Ehud. Electrode Cuffs. Filed February 18, 2014 and posted June 19, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=1590&p=32&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140612.PD.&OS=PD/20140612&RS=PD/20140612

Keywords for this news article include: Engineering, Legal Issues, Bio Control Medical (b.c.m.) Ltd..

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Source: Journal of Engineering