Robohub.org
 

New implant offers promise for the paralyzed

by
03 March 2022



share this:

Michel Roccati stands up and walks in Lausanne. © EPFL / Alain Herzog 2021

The images made headlines around the world in late 2018. David Mzee, who had been left paralyzed by a partial spinal cord injury suffered in a sports accident, got up from his wheelchair and began to walk with the help of a walker. This was the first proof that Courtine and Bloch’s system – which uses electrical stimulation to reactivate spinal neurons – could work effectively in patients.

Fast forward three years, and a new milestone has just been reached. The research team led by both Courtine, a professor at EPFL and member of NCCR Robotics, and Bloch, a professor and neurosurgeon at CHUV, has enhanced their system with more sophisticated implants controlled by artificial-intelligence software. These implants can stimulate the region of the spinal cord that activates the trunk and leg muscles. Thanks to this new technology, three patients with complete spinal cord injury were able to walk again outside the lab. “Our stimulation algorithms are still based on imitating nature,” says Courtine. “And our new, soft implanted leads are designed to be placed underneath the vertebrae, directly on the spinal cord. They can modulate the neurons regulating specific muscle groups. 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, for example.”

Patient with complete spinal cord injury (left) and incomplete spinal cord injury (right) walking in Lausanne, Switzerland. ©NeuroRestore – Jimmy Ravier

The new system is described in an article appearing in Nature Medicine that was also co-authored by Silvestro Micera, who leads the NCCR Robotics Wearable Robotics Grand Challenge. “Our breakthrough here is the longer, wider implanted leads with electrodes arranged in a way that corresponds exactly to the spinal nerve roots,” says Bloch. “That gives us precise control over the neurons regulating specific muscles.” Ultimately, it allows for greater selectivity and accuracy in controlling the motor sequences for a given activity.

Extensive training is obviously necessary for patients to get comfortable using the device. But the pace and scope of rehabilitation is amazing. “All three patients were able to stand, walk, pedal, swim and control their torso movements in just one day, after their implants were activated!” says Courtine. “That’s thanks to the specific stimulation programs we wrote for each type of activity. Patients can select the desired activity on the tablet, and the corresponding protocols are relayed to the pacemaker in the abdomen.”

Read the full story on the EPFL website.



tags:


NCCR Robotics





Related posts :



Sensing with purpose

Fadel Adib uses wireless technologies to sense the world in new ways, taking aim at sweeping problems such as food insecurity, climate change, and access to health care.
29 January 2023, by

Robot Talk Episode 34 – Interview with Sabine Hauert

In this week's episode of the Robot Talk podcast, host Claire Asher chatted to Dr Sabine Hauert from the University of Bristol all about swarm robotics, nanorobots, and environmental monitoring.
28 January 2023, by

Special drone collects environmental DNA from trees

Researchers at ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal research institute WSL have developed a flying device that can land on tree branches to take samples. This opens up a new dimension for scientists previously reserved for biodiversity researchers.
27 January 2023, by

The robots of CES 2023

Robots were on the main expo floor at CES this year, and these weren’t just cool robots for marketing purposes. I’ve been tracking robots at CES for more than 10 years, watching the transition from robot toys to real robots.
25 January 2023, by

Robot Talk Episode 33 – Interview with Dan Stoyanov

In this week's episode of the Robot Talk podcast, host Claire Asher chatted to Professor Dan Stoyanov from University College London all about robotic vision, surgical robotics, and artificial intelligence.
20 January 2023, by





©2021 - ROBOTS Association


 












©2021 - ROBOTS Association