Bionic spine uses the power of thought to move robotic limbs

Australian scientists have developed a tiny device that, when implanted into a blood vessel in the brain, could allow paralyzed patients to control bionic limbs using their thoughts.

    2016/02/24

NSFW    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — There may be new hope for people with spinal cord injuries, thanks to a device that is being hailed as the “holy grail” in bionics.

Australian scientists are developing a bionic spine that could allow paralyzed patients to move using the power of thought.

The device, a stent-electrode recording array or stentrode, is the size of a small paper clip. Details on the stent were outlined in an article published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Bypassing the need for open brain surgery, the stent is instead inserted into the jugular vein using a catheter. It’s pushed up to a blood vessel in the brain, where it then expands.

Electrodes on the stent record electrical activity from the motor cortex, which controls movement, and translate the electrical activity into commands. The commands are sent to a transmitter embedded just below the chest, which in turn sends them wirelessly to an exoskeleton or a wheelchair, allowing the patient to move.

“It’s the holy grail for research in bionics,” said Terence O'Brien of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, a professor who is overseeing the project, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Scientists tested the stent on sheep for 190 days, and are set to do human trials on three paraplegic patients next year.

The project was three years in the making, and was partly funded by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council, as well as by the U.S. Army, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The stent is made of a flexible material called nitinol, which allows it to self-expand once in the blood vessel. VIA THE UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE
The stent is made of a flexible material called nitinol, which allows it to self-expand once in the blood vessel. VIA THE UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE
The procedure to insert the stent is minimally invasive and will only take a few hours, according to the Melbourne team. VIA THE UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE
The procedure to insert the stent is minimally invasive and will only take a few hours, according to the Melbourne team. VIA THE UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE
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