Australian researchers have developed a bionic spine that could restore the ability to walk in paralyzed patients using the subconscious. Human testing of the new mind-controlled device will begin next year at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Victoria.
|Source: University of Melbourne|
Scientists hope that this new device, just 3cm long and a few millimeters wide, once implanted in a blood vessel close to the brain, it is able to read the electrical signals from the brain and send them to an exoskeleton, bionic limbs or a wheelchair, in order to provide paraplegic or tetraplegic patients with greater mobility.
The small device is a metallic stent, known as a "stentrode." and called "spine" by its creators due to its function. The device has successfully passed animal testing and will begin human testing next year. The first human trials will consist of implantation of the device in three patients at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Victoria. To do this, a small incision will be made in the back of the neck, the device will be inserted into the blood vessels that go to the brain and it will be guided with a catheter until it is deposited on the motor cortex, the part of the brain where the impulses originate. nervous that initiate voluntary muscle movements.
The metallic device It has been designed with elastic properties so that it can be bent and compressed as a tiny catheter is guided through your veins. Once on the motor cortex, the stentrode is released, which expands and remains fixed against the walls of the blood vessel and the catheter is removed.
The main challenge was to develop a device that
was flexible, biocompatible and small enough to
be able to move through a blood vessel one millimeter thick.
You can see the complete implantation procedure in the following video:
Outside, the bionic spine It has built-in electrodes that detect neuronal signals from the motor cortex and send them to a small device implanted under the skin on the patient's chest. This device is responsible for interpreting the signals and transforming them into commands, which will be sent to bionic prostheses, exoskeletons or wheelchairs through bluetooth to order them to move.
The bionic spine does not repair damaged pathways in the brain, but rather provides another way of doing things, bypassing the damaged area. Obviously, At first, patients will not know how to do it, but the researchers say that little by little, with training, they will become able to control bionic prostheses and other similar devices with their subconscious..
According to one of the study's lead authors, Dr. Nicholas Opie, a biomedical engineer and researcher at the University of Melbourne, it is a very simple operation that only lasts a few hours and whose procedure is similar to that usually performed by hospital staff to remove blood clots, with the difference that, in this case, the device is inserted and left inside the patient.
This will be the first human trial of the device that has only been tested in sheep to date. Initially, it will be tested in three patients with lower limb palsy chosen from patients at the Austin Health spinal cord unit.
|Source: University of Melbourne|
Actually, this new invention, developed by a team of 39 neurologists and biomedical engineers from the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute for Neuroscience and Mental Healthis not the first to provide mobility to paralyzed patients using neural electrical signals, but thanks to its tiny size and ease of implantation, It is a great innovation with respect to other previous solutions that, in most cases, required major surgeries, with the consequent risk of infection and other possible complications.
The researchers, who have published details of their discovery and successful tests on animals in the journal Nature Biotechnology, point out that if the experiment in humans is successful, the next step would be to try to adapt the device to treat other diseases such as epilepsy, obsessive-compulsive disorder or Parkinson's disease.
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