A 30-year-old tetraplegic man named Thibault, has been able to walk again for the first time since his traumatic injury by using a brain-controlled exoskeleton designed by scientists from Grenoble University Hospital in France. To improve the quality of lives and autonomy of patients with spinal injuries, the scientists devised brain implants that use nerve signals to control and drive a robotic exoskeleton.
Thibault underwent surgery to place two implants on the surface of his brain that read his brain activity. Each implant contains sixty-four electrodes that transmit his brainwaves to be translated by a computer to move his limbs.
Although the robotic exoskeleton is only a prototype, the trial results have been reported as “ground-breaking”. The scientists give hope to people with severe spinal cord injuries for possibly regaining movement of their limbs. You can find the whole BBC article here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-49907356
According to The Lance medical journal, approximately 20% of traumatic cervical spinal cord injuries result in tetraplegia. Injury that damages the spinal cord causes either temporary or permanent changes in its function, tetraplegia being one of the most severe form of spinal injuries.
The Spinal Injuries Association estimates that approximately 50,000 people in the UK live with spinal cord injury. Each year around 2,500 people are being either injured or diagnosed with spinal cord injury. These statistics are much higher than previously estimated.
Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Back Up – one of the leading charities providing support to spinal cord injured people said: ‘’The new statistics show that there are over twice as many people out there who need our help – people who may have never received specialist support at a spinal centre and have no idea where to turn for help. This is deeply troubling to us, as we know that having the right support at the right time is key to making a positive start to life after spinal cord injury”.