With nearly 20,000 new spinal cord injuries occurring in the United States each year, any encouraging research involving possible treatment options is welcome news. From getting a Coflex implant to receiving spinal cord stimulation, the options have increased over time. Now, a wireless spine implant that is working well in monkeys is one such innovation in the treatment of spinal cord injuries that may also restore functions in humans. The new device may be able to re-establish a connection between the injured spinal cord and brain.
The new wireless implant works by translating brain signals and sending them to the part of the spine below the injured area. A computer decodes the information being transmitted by the brain to deliver signals in a way that can be interpreted by nerves responsible for movement. Partially paralyzed monkeys who had the device implanted were able to regain sensation and function in affected legs.
Researchers stress the device isn’t meant to be a miracle fix or cure for a spinal cord injury. The goal is to reach a point where the device may help enhance quality of life and play an important role in a patient’s overall recovery efforts. Scientists foresee the technology being used to strengthen existing connections between the brain and damaged parts of the spinal cord. The hope is that the implant will restore the subconscious actions required for walking with electronic stimulation.
The implant is still in the early stages of development and it’s not known if results seen in monkeys will translate to humans with a more complex neuromuscular system. The device works by sending signals that mimic normal walking motions. However, it’s not yet capable of controlling detailed movements such as climbing stairs, avoiding obstacles, and changing direction.
Injury to certain areas of the spinal cord can sever or alter important links between spinal nerves and parts of the brain responsible for movement and sensation. If initial results seen in these monkeys can translate to humans, it may provide new options and treatment possibilities for people living with spinal cord injuries. The next step is to test the device on four-legged animals before determining if results can be duplicated in humans.
Though this technology isn’t quite ready to be implemented yet, there are many options for patients who need spine surgery. Beverly Hills residents trust in Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of experts at The Spine Institute. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation.