A research program started eleven years ago at the NeuroRestore center of the Center hospitalier universitaire vaudois (CHUV), in Switzerland, has resulted in the creation of a connected electrical implant that has enabled nine patients paralyzed after a spinal cord injury spine to walk again. Even more, the creation of this device has allowed the identification of neurons allowing a restoration of walking, explains France Inter, this Wednesday.
Activate repair neurons
Thanks to this electrical implant and intensive rehabilitation, one of the patients, paralyzed in the lower limbs since a motorcycle accident in 2017, can now walk a kilometer with the support of a walker. He can also climb stairs.
The particularity of this new technology is to combine electrical impulse and optogenetics. It is thus possible for researchers to activate or inhibit certain neurons in order to stimulate the functions with which they are associated, such as here the recovery of motor skills. The targeted neurons function as the interface between the brain and the spinal cord and drive the production of muscle activity.
Market launch within 5 years
To discover them, the NeuroRestore teams, co-directed by Professor Grégoire Courtine and Jocelyn Bloch, first placed their electrical implant in mice. Thanks to tests, they were able to isolate this family of neurons. “They were known but not considered essential in the production of motor skills,” said Grégoire Courtine, quoted by our colleagues.
With these first conclusive results, Jocelyn Bloch hopes that their device can be more widely offered. A clinical study with at least 60 patients will first have to be conducted in a year and a half. The placing on the market of the implant should only take place in five years.