6. Implantable stent helps paraplegics move again
Smaller than a paperclip and implanted in the brain, “stentrode” creates movement in paraplegics’ limbs.
Implanted into a blood vessel near the motor cortex of the brain, the stent device detects signals that would normally move limbs and sends those signals to a computer that transmits to a robotic exoskeleton attached to a paraplegic’s limbs.
In order to move the exoskeleton, all the patient has to do is think about moving it and the exoskeleton will move.
The device has tiny electrodes that sit on the wall of the blood vessel next to the brain tissue. Each electrode record electrical activity that is fired by neurons. The activity is transmitted through wires that come out of the brain and into the neck that connects to the chest and into a wireless transmission system.
The University of Melbourne researchers say that the device will most likely be able to help young people who have suffered a spinal cord injury 6 months to 1 year prior to the implantation and are suitable for exoskeleton legs.
“Much like learning to drive a manual car, play an instrument or type on a keyboard, after a period of training the brain remembers what to do and the thought becomes second nature. This is what we expect will happen when people use our device to command wheelchairs, exoskeletons and prosthetic limbs,” said Nick Opie, a senior research fellow and co-head of the Vascular Bionics Laboratory at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, in a press release.