Paralysis in three patients treated with electrical simulation.
A medical breakthrough by GTX Medical, led by the Swiss professors Grégoire Courtine and Bloch, has enabled three patients, all suffering with chronic paraplegia, to walk again thanks to wireless electrical simulation.
The wireless implant is inserted onto the spinal cord where it contains a multitude of electrodes which can send specific messages to specific muscle groups, just as the brain would.
“Selected configurations of electrodes are activating specific regions of the spinal cord, mimicking the signals that the brain would deliver to produce walking,” said Prof Jocelyne Bloch, a neuroscientist at Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV/Unil).
Each of the patients who undertook the electrical simulation found that not only could they move and control their paralysed legs with the implant, but also found that after a few months, the wireless implant was no longer needed and control had been restored.
“Our findings are based on a deep understanding of the underlying mechanisms which we gained through years of research on animal models. We were thus able to mimic in real time how the brain naturally activates the spinal cord,” said Courtine. “The exact timing and location of the electrical stimulation are crucial to a patient’s ability to produce an intended movement. It is also this spatiotemporal coincidence that triggers the growth of new nerve connections.”
“Voluntary muscle control improved tremendously within five months of training”, said Courtine. “The human nervous system responded even more profoundly to the treatment than we expected.”
The next steps for GTX medical include developing their system and creating a way for the treatment to be made available across hospitals and clinics.
You can read more here: The Engineer
Photo Credit: The Engineer
November 2, 2018
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