Bionic Spine Brings Paralysed Patients One Step Closer To Walking Again

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Researchers from Australia has developed a tiny ” bionic spine ” that you can inject into a blood vessel next to the brain so it can read electrical signals and then feed them into an exoskeleton or bionic limbs or even a wheelchair. This can give paraplegic patients more mobility using just their subconscious thoughts.

” Our vision, through this device, is to return function and mobility to patients with complete paralysis by recording brain activity and converting the acquired signals into electrical commands, which in turn would lead to movement of the limbs through a mobility assist device like an exoskeleton. In essence, this a bionic spinal cord ” Says the neurologist and lead researcher Thomas Oxley from the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

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Maybe one of the biggest advantages of this awesome device is how easy it is to implement it to a patient. It only measures at 3 cm long and a few millimeters wide, basically the size of a paperclip, all you need to do is to make a small cut in the back of the neck of the patient and it is fed into the blood vessels that connects to the brain via a catheter.

Once this tiny bionic spine hits the top of the motor cortex, this is where the brain controls muscular activity, the bionic spine is left behind, this whole procedure takes only a few hours, so the team reports.

” We have been able to create the world’s only minimally invasive device that is implanted into a blood vessel in the brain via a simple day procedure, avoiding the need for high risk open brain surgery ”

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” This is a procedure that Royal Melbourne staff do commonly to remove blood clots, the difference with our device is we have to put it in, and leave it in ” says one of the team members, Nicholas Opie.

Once the bionic spine is in place and implanted, the small electrodes on its exterior stick to the walls of the vein and start recording electrical signals from the motor cortex. Then these signals will be transmitted to another device that is implanted in the patient’s shoulder, which translates the same signals into commands to control wheelchairs, exoskeleton, prosthetic limbs or computers via Bluetooth.

Now don’t get this wrong, this isn’t something that the patient will be able to do immediately, but with proper training he will be able to use deliberate thoughts about manoeuvring bionic limbs and other apparatuses and control them with his subconscious.

Now this is not the first piece of tech that is made to help paralyzed patients with the ability to move with neural signals, the big advantage with the bionic spine is that it’s so tiny.

” Most solutions today require invasive surgery involving a piece of the skull, known as a craniotomy and which carries a risk of infection and other complications, another existing procedure , which involves puncturing thousands of electrodes into the brain, is only effective for up to one year because the brain starts treating it as a foreign object and grows scar tissue over it ”

So far the innovative bionic spine has only been tested on sheep, but the team is planning to start human trials in 2017, there are already three patients who are selected to be the first recipients. And that my friends, is what we call AWESOME!

Source: Imgur | Sciencealert | Nature biotechnology

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