This Bionic Implant Could Help Paralysed Patients To Move Again

In a potential breakthrough, Australian researchers have tested a bionic implant that can measure and record movement signals from the brain

Named a 'stentrode', the new device is only 3 cm long and is implanted in a vessel adjacent to the brain touching the motor cortex, requiring only a small incision to be gently fed to the target site. The motor cortex is the relay centre for voluntary movement signals coming from the brain. 

"We have been able to create the world's only minimally invasive device that is implanted into a blood vessel in the brain via a simple day procedure, avoiding the need for high risk open brain surgery"

Credit: University of Melbourne 

Credit: University of Melbourne 

The external section of the implant is coated in electrodes, which monitor and receive signals from the nearby motor cortex. To test the functionality on a system similar to a human, the research team completed this procedure on a sheep. They then successfully recorded signals for up to 190 days.

What's great about this idea?

The insertion requires minimal surgery, with little invasive or risky action involved. While we wait for regenerative medicine breakthroughs, bionic limb technology could massively benefit from this innovative technique. Such a bionic implant attached to the motor cortex, that has already demonstrated the ability to record specific movement signals, could one day enable a patient to control any bionic limbs with thought alone. 

"Our vision, through this device, is to return function and mobility to patients with complete paralysis by recording brain activity and converting the acquired signals into electrical commands, which in turn would lead to movement of the limbs through a mobility assist device like an exoskeleton. In essence this a bionic spinal cord" 

Read more at NHS News