Recently in a first of its kind science research experiment an international team of scientists collaborated together to implant a wireless neural network in a pair of Rhesus Macaque (monkeys) to restore mobility in their temporarily paralyzed legs. They did so by bypassing the spinal cord injury with “brain-spine interface” implants, restoring intentional walking movement. The discovery is first of its kind because of its use of a neural prosthetic implant allowing for the restoration of movement.
The research was performed by a team of scientists and neuroengineers that were led by Ecole Polytechnique Federale Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, teamed with Brown University, Medtronic, and Fraunhofer ICT-IMM in Germany. The research builds upon neural technologies that were provided by Brown University and its partner institutions’, testing was done in collaboration with the University of Bordeaux, Motac Neuroscience and the Lausanne University Hospital.
The implants utilize the signals recorded from the motor cortex of the brain triggering coordinated electrical stimulation to the nerves that are responsible for movement. Once activated, the monkeys with implants experienced almost normal movement. The research provided evidence that spinal stimulation from the implants can increase chances of rehabilitation after injury.
Although such a major discovery was achieved, human trials are still a long way to go. The implants has its limitations too, there is no method of measuring how much force is exerted with each movement along with other obstacles that need further researching.
Why is this huge? Well for the thousands of people with limited mobility due to spinal injuries this will literally change their lives, imagine a world where injuries sustained to the spine in a motor-vehicle accident doesn’t mean a loss of mobility, but a procedure that offers patience their ability to walk and life back. This research will give researchers a better understanding of how the human body works, creating a wide array of medical devices that offer better treatment and even possibly, enhancement.
This bionic spine implant is a pivotal point in the human race’s development and evolution. As we move forward we can expect to see research that will provide us with bionic technology that will further our capacity.