Paralyzed monkeys walk

In a medical breakthrough that offers new
hope to people with spinal cord injuries,
scientists have used a brain implant to
enable partially paralyzed monkeys to
regain the ability to walk. Researchers at
the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
implanted the device in the monkey’s
motor cortex, or movement center, where
it recorded neural activity. This data was
then wirelessly routed to a second implant
placed on the spinal
cord beyond
the injured nerves,
which triggered the
intended movements.
Two monkeys
fitted with this
“brain-spine
interface” system
regained the ability to walk within days,
and were fully mobile after three months.
“It was a big surprise for us,” Grégoire
Courtine, a neuroscientist who led the
research, tells The Guardian (U.K.). “The
gait was not perfect, but it was almost like
normal walking. The foot was not dragging
and it was fully weight-bearing.” The
implant’s components—which took seven
years to develop, after 10 years of work on
rodents—are already approved for use in
humans. But helping monkeys walk using
four limbs is much less challenging than
enabling paralyzed people to balance and
walk on two legs. Nevertheless, researchers
believe the technology could be transferred
to humans within a decade.


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