(ORDO NEWS) — Three paralyzed patients have regained movement with an implant that directly stimulates the nerves that control movement in the torso and legs.
Spinal implants can be controlled using an app on a smartphone
In a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine , Swiss scientists have described an implant that allowed paralyzed patients to stand and walk within a day of starting treatment.
A little later, patients were even able to engage in recreational activities such as swimming and cycling.
In the months following implant placement, three men, aged 29 to 41, took part in an intense neurorehabilitation workout that resulted in even greater voluntary control of muscle movement.
The complex implant stimulates the spinal nerves involved in torso and leg movements. Surprisingly, an electrical device works with an application on a smartphone.
The implant connects to the app via a wireless network and allows the user to select the specific activities they want to do. The device also has an offline mode in case there are interruptions in the wireless connection.
“Our new soft implanted electrodes are designed to be placed under the vertebrae, directly on the spinal cord. They can modulate neurons that regulate certain muscle groups.
By manipulating these implants, we can activate the spinal cord, as the brain naturally does, so that the patient can, for example, stand, walk, swim, or ride a bicycle,” the researchers wrote.
After five months of training with this technology, all three fully recovered their ability to bear weight on their legs, resulting in the ability to stand for long periods of time.
As their motor control improved over time, they began to engage in more advanced physical leisure activities outside of the lab, such as boxing and canoeing.
Researchers are currently working to make this implant more accessible to other spinal cord injury patients as well.
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