Neuroprosthetics and robot rehabilitation wake up the ‘spinal brain’ and restore voluntary movement
This breakthrough result from the laboratory of Grégoire Courtine at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EFPL) in Switzerland was published today in Science Magazine. In this study the researchers showed that, after a debilitating injury in rats, it was possible to stimulate complete recovery using a combination of therapeutic drugs and electrical stimulation. The remarkable advance here is that the study showed that its possible to facilitate and promote natural processes to achieve the outcome we are working for.
“This is the world-cup of neurorehabilitation,” exclaims Courtine. “Our rats have become athletes when just weeks before they were completely paralyzed. I am talking about 100% recuperation of voluntary movement.”
Courtine is optimistic that human, phase-two trials will begin in a year or two at Balgrist University Hospital Spinal Cord Injury Centre in Zurich, Switzerland. Meanwhile, researchers at EPFL are coordinating a nine million Euro project called NeuWalk that aims at designing a fully operative spinal neuroprosthetic system, much like the one used here with rats, for implanting into humans.