A spinal implant zapped the paralyzed man’s spine. Now He Can Walk Again. – DNyuz

An Implant Zapped a Paralyzed Man’s Spine. Now He Can Walk Again.

In 2011, Gert-Yan Oskam woke up in a hospital in rural China to find that he couldn’t feel his legs. The doctor told him that while cycling to the store, he had a serious bicycle accident. injured his spinal chord , and caused paralysis in his legs as well as some arms and his torso. After being transported to a larger public hospital, he made arrangements to fly home to his native Netherlands where he believed doctors would be able to more effectively treat him.

Oskam was only 28 years old when he was hurt. He was looking forward to recovering and learning to walk again on getting on with big things in his life, like living in the three-story house he built overlooking a river.

“I thought, when I came back home, they would fix me,” Oskam, now 40-years-old, said at a press briefing on Tuesday. “But, unfortunately, there was nothing.”

In just a few months after the accident, it became clear that Oskam would have a much more daunting road ahead of him. He was able to dress himself and participate in wheelchair sport after undergoing rigorous physical therapy. His mobility was still extremely limited.

Then, Oksam was offered a chance to participate in the clinical trials for an experimental device called the Stimulation Movement Overground (STIMO) in 2017. Known as a brain-spinal interface (BSI), the STIMO provided electrical stimulation to his spinal cord and into the bones and muscles that control his lower body. The idea was to stimulate the nerves that weren’t severed from the accident.

After completing the seven-month trial, he could move, and walk, though very slowly, with a crutch. Eventually, he reached a plateau which prompted him to join a more ambitious trial that connected the STIMO device with an implanted brain device.

Today, he’s able to walk further and more efficiently than he has ever before. The researchers behind the technology published a paper Wednesday in the journal Nature describing the BSI that Oskam uses to walk that helped restore communication between his brain and spinal cord, allowing him to stand and walk naturally. Oskam could walk on crutches with the device turned off, proving that it restored connections and movement after his injury.

The new technology holds a lot of promise and hope for the 5. 3 million people in the U.S. who suffer from paralysis–and the millions more throughout the world.

“After a spinal injury, there’s a disconnect between the brain and the spinal cord, which means communication gets interrupted,” Gregoire courtine, a co-author at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, told the press at the Tuesday briefing. “What we’ve been able to do is re-establish the communication between the brain and the region of the spinal cord that controls leg movement with a digital bridge.”

Courtine added, “It captures the thoughts of Gert-Yan and translates these thoughts into a stimulation of the spinal cord to re-establish leg movement.”

The entire system consists of a few parts. The first part of the system is a device that’s embedded into Oskam’s skull, above the area of his brain responsible for motor function. Then he wears a head-mounted device that has two powerful antennas. One of them decodes his brain signals and helps predict motor intention (e.g. He then wears a headset that contains two powerful antennas, one of which decodes and translates his brain signals to help predict his motor intentions (e.g. These commands are sent to a pulse generator that is epidurally implanted into the spine of the patient, which zaps the nerves to allow him to move the lower part of his body.

Using this system, Oskam has been able to stand and walk through different terrains including smooth floors, gravel, and even staircases. Since then, he has been able use it at home freely without supervision – although he still uses crutches to get around.

Astonishingly, the device also seems to work even when it is turned off. It is possible that the device provides some degree of rehabilitation and recovery to his damaged spinal cord nerves.

“Jocelyne Bloch a neurosurgeon from Lausanne University Hospital, and coauthor of the study, told the press that the stimulation activates a very unique neuron and also the residual pathways of the brain. “This coactivation triggers the growth of new nerve connections.”

Along with further refining this digital bridge to help restore the ability to walk, the study’s authors hope to develop a similar device that will be able to “decode the intention to move the arm and hand,” Henri Lorach, a neuroscientist at EPFL and co-author of the study, said in the briefing. The team will launch a three-participant clinical trial to test the device in this year.

It’s not just those who suffer from spinal injuries who can benefit either. Courtine stated that stroke victims and others who suffer from neurological problems can benefit from BSI. The team hopes to “miniaturize” the system in order to make it even more non-invasive when embedding it into patients.

For Oskam it’s the ability to stand up on his two feet and do simple chores in the home that we take for granted.

“Last week, something needed to be painted and there was nobody to help me,” he recalled. He said, “I took my walker to paint it while standing. This helps me a great deal. Not only with painting, of course, but with my general health.”

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