EndParalysis foundation’s comments:
Again some good news is brought to us showing the potential of scientific and technological developments. This time, a long-paralyzed man, with a complete chronic spinal cord injury, managed to walk some steps without any braces nor robotic limbs. So how significant is this? Well, it is undoubtedly good news. For the non-informed readers we should, however, highlight a few reasons to manage their expectations:
– The movement is not really 100% ‘natural’. The muscles are activated by electrodes. The electrodes are controlled by the brain of the patients. For some patients helas, their muscles, might not or hardly react to the electric stimulations and might not contract enough to obtain a movement.
– The man walks with a harness that supports part of his weight, and uses a walker. Walking without any support is not yet possible at this point. See video here. To say the man is “walking” would be an exaggeration even though his performance is amazing!
– And most importantly, this strategy only focuses on walking (so far). However, the consequences of a spinal cord injury are by far not limited to the unability to walk or to move limbs. Paralysis encompasses very far reaching problems such as the loss of bladder and bowel control, the absence of sensation of all body parts below the level of the spinal injury.
Thus again, this is a very interesting study, offering possibilities for the future, but it will require further developments to lead us to a robust scientific breakthrough and to actual functional recovery. So far actual spinal repair strategies, therapies and treatments are still needed to come to a satisfactory level of functional and sensory recovery. In the future a combination of various approaches will most likely be required.
Source: UCI. Irvine, Calif., Sept. 24 2015 — Novel brain-computer interface technology created by University of California, Irvine researchers has allowed a paraplegic man to walk for a short distance. In the preliminary proof-of-concept study, led by UCI biomedical engineer Zoran Nenadic and neurologist An Do, a person with complete paralysis in both legs due to spinal cord injury was able – for the first time – to take steps without relying on manually controlled robotic limbs. The male participant, whose legs had been paralyzed for five years, walked along a 12-foot course using an electroencephalogram-based system that lets the brain bypass the spinal cord to send messages to the legs. It takes electrical signals from the subject’s brain, processes them through a computer algorithm, and fires them off to electrodes placed around the knees that trigger movement in the leg muscles…Read more: here Alternatively, see the Guardian article.