Paralyzed man walks again thanks to electrodes in his spine | Science

A man 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 accident that severed his spinal cord, but can stand and walk thanks to electrical stimulation controlled wirelessly from a tablet.

The research team said the power implant helped Roccati and two other patients – all men aged 29 to 41 – to stand, walk, ride a bike and even kick themselves. foot in a swimming pool, raising hopes that small implantable devices could help the paralyzed. people regain more autonomy.

Rocatti uses the device as part of his training and rehabilitation routine to strengthen his muscles and stay in shape. “Now it’s part of my daily life,” he said.

Developed by Professor Grégoire Courtine, neuroscientist at the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, and Professor Jocelyne Bloch, neurosurgeon at the University Hospital of Lausanne, the system uses a soft and flexible electrode which is placed on the nerves of the spinal cord , below the vertebrae.

The electrode delivers electrical impulses to nerves in the spinal cord that control various 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 to swim.

The device helped all three patients stand a few hours after surgery, but their performance improved after three to four months of practice and training. “It wasn’t perfect at first, but they could practice early on to get a smoother gait,” Bloch said. She added that she expected similar results in women.

“Using this technology, we were able to target people with the most severe spinal injuries,” Courtine said. “By controlling these implants, we can activate the spinal cord as the brain would naturally so that the patient stands, walks, swims or rides a bike.”

The patients follow a training program that allowed them to rebuild lost muscles and move more independently, even allowing them to stand and drink from a bar. To perform a particular movement, the person selects the appropriate option from their tablet.

The tablet then comes into contact with 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 get into a standing position or swing the legs to walk, for example. System details are reported in natural medicine.

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