Australian researchers are on a quest to help paralysed people walk using the power of thought.
The revolutionary procedure, which will be trialled in humans next year, involves implanting a tiny mesh or 'stentrode', about the length of a matchstick or a paperclip, right next to the brain via our network of blood vessels.
Once implanted, this device can pick up electrical activity in the motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement. It relays the signals to an implant in a patient's shoulder and then converts these signals into commands, which are then sent to bionic limbs wirelessly.
It's being called a 'bionic spine' and the approach is groundbreaking because a patient's head doesn't need to be opened up to implant a sensor.
Professor Terry O'Brien, Head of the Department of Medicine at the Royal Melbourne Hospital is working on the project. "This technology is really exciting. It's the first time that we've been able to demonstrate and develop a device that can be implanted without the need for a big operation, to chronically record brain activity," Professor O'Brien said. "The most obvious benefit is for people who are paralysed following a stroke or spinal cord injury. It is simple and non-invasive and much safer for patients."
The chief engineer behind the device is Dr Nick Opie of the Vascular Bionics Laboratory at The University of Melbourne.
"I've always been fascinated by the integration of man and machine and the ways that people and machines could function together. Fortunately, I was born in the time to do this." Dr Nick Opie, The University of Melbourne