The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has developed a wireless implant that may become very effective in treating spinal cords injuries.
A team of scientist from Switzerland has made a significant breakthrough in bioengineering after managing to restore a primate’s ability to walk partially. The primate in question had a paralyzed limb because of a severe spinal cord injury. Needless to say, that due to the nature of the injury, the primate was unable to stay upright, let alone to walk.
Using advanced surgical techniques and a wireless implant, researchers managed to restore the primate’s mobility. According to the team’s statements, the primates recovered their ability to walk within a week. In addition, with time, the wireless implant can help them restore full mobility.
How does this amazing device work? Gregoire Courtine, a neuroscientist, involved in the project, explained in an interview how the device operates. Courtine said in spinal cord injuries the main problem is that the electrical signal coming from the brain is unable to reach our limbs since the “conduit” is interrupted along its path.
Basically, it’s like wanting to turn on a light bulb, but the wire is cut. The implant device acts as a sort of bypass, allowing the electrical signal to reach the limbs and to move them.
The procedure involves two major steps. As the neuroscientist explains, the first process involves implanting a complex neural sensor inside the brain area that accounts for limb movement. After that, the surgeon must implant a second wireless device, just at the base of the spinal cord.
The first device registers brain signals associated with movement. They are encoded and sent to a computer for processing. In turn, the computer sends these signals to the second device implanted at the base of the spinal cord, which acts as an electrical stimulator, “telling” the limbs how to move, based on the signal received from the computer.
It would be an understatement to say that this development is not amazing. Even more, if the scientists will be able to refine their device even further, it will be able to help paralyzed patients walk again.
However, as Courtine pointed out, there’s still more work to be done, before they can begin testing the device on humans. However, the results are quite promising, considering that in just a matter of weeks, paralyzed primates were able to walk again without assistance.
If you’re interest in seeing the full interview, then check out the video below.
Furthermore, don’t forget to check out EPFL’s interactive page for a more detailed account.
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