New 'breakthrough' spinal cord implants allows patients to walk again

New technology has returned the ability to walk to paralyzed patients with spinal cord injuries, labeled a 'breakthrough device.'

Published Tue, Feb 8 2022 4:41 AM CST   |   Updated Sat, Mar 5 2022 10:36 PM CST

A new study on the technology has been published in the journal Nature Medicine.

New 'breakthrough' spinal cord implants allows patients to walk again 01 |

Scientists implanted sixteen-electrode devices into the epidural space between the vertebrae and spinal cord membrane of three men's spines, all of whom were paralyzed due to severe spinal cord injuries. Pacemakers implanted under the skin in their abdomens could deliver electrical currents to the electrodes, allowing trunk and leg muscles to be stimulated.

The system can be controlled wireless with a computer, and the men were all able to take steps on a treadmill on the day following the surgery. Physical therapy and training over three to four months were necessary to complete tasks like climbing stairs or walking for 500 meters independently.

"For the first time, we have not only immediate effect, though training is still important, but also individuals with no sensation, no movement whatsoever, have been able to regain full standing and walking independently of the laboratory," said Gregoire Courtine of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

The FDA has approved a "breakthrough devices" designation for the researcher's new technology, meaning people would be able to obtain coverage for it through the Medicare Coverage of Innovative Technology program.

You can read more from the study here.

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