Two paraplegic can move and walk again: A medical breakthrough that will bring new hope to the world

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Nov 14, 2016 01:15 AM EST

Two doctors hold a monkey on an operation table at Rhone Poulenc health department toxicology lab. | Location: Vitry, France. (Photo by Yves Forestier/Sygma via Getty Images)

Switzerland - A medical breakthrough that was made by the researchers in École Polytechnique Fédérale de Luasanne (EPFL), where two paraplegic rhesus macaque made to move and walk again on its two legs within two weeks and the other in six days.

The study made two implants work together as a "brain-spine interference" to communicate two signals between the brains and the spines of the monkeys where each implant was positioned.

According to NPR, neurosurgeon Jocelyn Bloch of Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland, did what she has not done before few months ago. A remarkable 10-hour operation was a success, not with humans but monkeys.

Dr. Bloch said, "Normally, the brain is giving a command, and legs are responding through the spinal cord. When you have the spinal cord lesion, then this command is interrupted."

In the procedure, Dr. Bloch placed the electrodes in the motor cortex of the monkey's brain that controls leg movement and docked the wireless transmitter outside of the skull. Then she put another electrode along the spinal cord below the injury to stimulate certain nerves to activate specific leg muscles to move and flex. And finally, implanted an instrument in one leg so that the research team could record the muscle activity.

After six days, Bloch and her colleagues switched off the device and passed them on to the computer and send the electrodes to the spine, and in a few seconds, the leg was moving. "Without the procedure, it could take months before the leg can move at all," Bloch explained.

In line with this, in a statement via CNN made by Dr. Grégoire Courtine, a professor of neural engineering at EPFL who leads the research said that the fundamental thing here is to induce the movement of the patient. 

"The key here is to stimulate the movement of the animal," she said. Dr. Courtine also added that over the past years, they are spending their energy to understand how a spinal cord can be stimulated.

He also explains that by re-assuming the broken path, implants work through a computer to communicate and enable brain signals to jump over the point of injury towards the spine. As the signal touches the spine, it stimulates the nerve within the legs of the two monkeys as the brain commands.

Although the goal of the researchers is to apply this technology to people with paraplegia, many challenges are yet to consider. Compared with monkeys, the moving leg-moving region of the human is much deeper inside. Also, it is even more complex to enable a human leg to move.

Despite of these, a similar approach is made by Dr. Ali Rezai, director of the Neurological Institute at Ohio State University, to a paraplegic man but this time is that they did it to his arms. The procedure was a success and she believes the team of Dr. Courtine can do it.

The Swiss group already started a clinical trial with eight people. After all, the goal of the research team is to improve the quality of life for those people suffering paralysis of their lower limbs.

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