A team of researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology was successful in restoring mobility in a paralyzed primate using a high-tech implant.
Doctors are one step closer to restoring motor function in patients who have suffered a spinal cord injury thanks to the efforts of a team of researchers from Switzerland. Using advanced computer-controlled implant, the team was able to partially restore motor control of a paralyzed primate’s limb, by circumventing the affected region.
As we come to understand the facts behind this breakthrough, the paralyzed primate which was the recipient of this new type of surgical implant had a spinal cord injury in the past. As a result, the monkey was unable to move one of its limbs.
The surgeons implanted a highly-sensitive sensor in the primate’s brain, in the exact area that controls the locomotory system. As the team explains, the implant operates on Wi-Fi technology.
The sensor implanted in the primate’s brain picks up electrical signals which are attributed to movement and sends them to a computer for further analysis. The computer processes the biological information received from the brain implant and figures out the type of movement.
This information is relayed again to a stimulator, which is attached to the primate’s spinal cord, which, in turn, instructs the limbs to perform a type of movement.
As the team explains, due to the fact that the primate’s spinal cord is severed in one place, the electrical signal coming from the brain is lost along the way. This means that the brain shouts out orders, but the other nerves and muscles cannot obey because their only means of communication has been destroyed.
The idea behind the two implants is to circumvent the affected area of the spinal cord. Think of it this way: let’s say you have a simple circuit which consists of a battery, a light bulb, a switch, and a wire that connects all of them.
If the wire is interrupted anywhere along the way, the light bulb won’t turn on since no juice can be extracted for the battery. So, in order to repair the circuit, you have two possibilities: either replace the entire wire, which is not possible at the moment or to attempt a bypass using another wire that is capable of connecting the two loose ends.
According to the scientists working on the project, within a week, the formerly paralyzed primate made astonishing progress, and, in a couple of more weeks its mobility will be restored completely.
Image source: Wikipedia