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An implant could cure paralysis

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A new implant enables patients with a complete spinal cord injury to stand, walk and even swim 


Michel Roccati, an Italian patient suffering from complete paraplegia following a motorcycle accident, was able to walk again thanks to an implant placed against his spinal cord. Grégoire Courtine, neuroscientist and professor at the EPFL, and Jocelyne Bloch, neurosurgeon and professor at the CHUV, are the creators of this new technology.

Three years ago, the two scientists and their team already managed to make David Mzee, a young patient suffering from a partial spinal cord injury, walk again.

“Our breakthrough here is the longer, wider implanted leads with electrodes arranged in a way that corresponds exactly to the spinal nerve roots. We can now stimulate legs and torso muscles” says Bloch. Two other patients are equipped with the .NeuroRestore solution and are now actively training to regain their mobility.

“All three patients were able to stand, walk, pedal, swim, and control their torso movements in just one day after their implants were activated,” confirms Grégoire Courtine.

Two small remote controls are attached to a walker. A tablet wirelessly sends the stimulation commands to the pacemaker located in the patient’s abdomen, which then relays the stimulations to the spinal implant to allow him to stand up. One press on the right button, and the left leg flexes as if by magic. Then it rests a few centimeters further. With the left button, the right leg takes a step. This is true hope for all paralyzed people.

The .NeuroRestore team is now working with ONWARD Medical to turn this discovery into a treatment that could improve the lives of thousands of patients.


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