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Spinal implant helps paralyzed man walk again [Video]




  • A paralyzed man got a spinal implant to help him walk again after a motorcycle accident.
  • Michel Roccati is the first person who suffered a severe spinal injury to walk even though he still cannot feel his legs.
  • The implant sends signals to the parts of the spine that control movement.

A man who was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident in 2017 has regained the ability to walk after doctors implanted electrodes in his spine to reactivate his muscles.

Michel Roccati lost all feeling and movement in his legs after the crash that severed his spinal cord. Now, with electrical stimulation, he can stand and walk .

The research team said the electrical implant had helped Roccati and two other patients to stand and walk. The technology raises hopes that small, implantable devices can help paralyzed people regain more independence.

Rocatti uses the device as part of his routine training and rehabilitation to help strengthen his muscles and keep fit.

The system was developed by Prof Grégoire Courtine, a neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, and Prof Jocelyne Bloch, a neurosurgeon at Lausanne university hospital. The system uses a soft, flexible electrode that is laid on top of the spinal cord nerves, underneath the vertebrae.

The electrode delivers electrical pulses to spinal cord nerves that control different muscles in the legs and torso. The pulses, in turn, are controlled by software on a tablet that issues instructions for a certain action, such as standing, walking, cycling, or kicking the legs for swimming.

The device helped all three patients to stand within hours of the operation, but their performance improved with three to four months of practice and training.

“Thanks to this technology, we’ve been able to target individuals with the most serious spinal cord injuries,” Courtine said. “By controlling these implants, we can activate the spinal cord like the brain would do naturally to have the patient stand, walk, swim or ride a bike.”

The patients are following a training program that has let them rebuild lost muscle and move around more independently, even allowing them to stand and drink in a bar. To perform a particular movement, the person selects the appropriate option from their tablet.

The tablet then contacts a pacemaker-like device in their abdomen that sends signals to the implanted electrode. This stimulates the different sets of muscles for the right time and duration to push up into a standing position, or swing the legs to walk, for example. Details of the system are reported in Nature Medicine.


Source: The Guardian

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