In a big leap toward making paralysis caused by spinal cord injuries a thing of the past, scientists have successfully tested a new wireless brain implant on primates. In the experiment that is currently being hailed as a big breakthrough, a team of Swiss scientists made a paralyzed monkey walk again using wireless “brain-spine interface”.
Reuters reports that the monkey suffered a severe spinal cord injury that rendered its limbs completely immobile. The researchers treated it with a neuroprosthetic interface that acted as a wireless bridge between the brain and spine. Because of the “bridge”, the signals transmitted by the brain completely bypassed the spinal cord lesions and moved on to the limbs.
The researchers, however, warn that despite qualifying as a breakthrough, the technology still has miles to go before it can be applied to humans with severe spinal cord injuries. Although, they have already undertaken a small feasibility study in humans as a first step.
“The link between the decoding of the brain and the stimulation of the spinal cord — to make this communication exist — is completely new,” said Jocelyne Bloch, a neurosurgeon at the Lausanne University Hospital and a participant in the research,
“For the first time, I can imagine a completely paralyzed patient able to move their legs through this brain-spine interface.”
Originally published in the journal Nature earlier this week, the study describes the interface as the primary component of the technology which decodes brain activities associated with walking and then sends the same to the spinal cord below the injury.