A revolutionary medical device has enabled a paralyzed man to regain his natural walking ability after more than ten years. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology developed a “brain-spine interface,” connecting the brain and spinal cord through implants. These brain implants track movement intentions, wirelessly transmitting them to an external processing unit worn by the patient. The intentions are then translated into commands and sent back via a second implant to stimulate the muscles. Gert-Jan Oskam, 40, had been paralyzed in a motorbike accident in China over a decade ago, affecting his legs, arms, and trunk. Oskam expressed his wish to walk again and believed it was possible with the device. He can now walk distances of at least 100 meters and stand unassisted for a few minutes.

Unlike previous stimulation devices, this technology grants Oskam full control over the stimulation, allowing him to initiate movement without external triggers. The device’s ability to provide smoother movements and adapt to varying terrains is due to the reconnection of two central nervous system regions disrupted by the spinal cord injury. The connection established by the implants has remained reliable for over a year, even when Oskam is at home, contributing to his regained strength. The success of this trial has opened up possibilities for future applications, including treating individuals with arm and hand paralysis or those who have suffered a stroke. The researchers aim to make the system more portable by reducing its size. This groundbreaking research heralds a new era in the treatment of motor deficits caused by neurological disorders, presenting the potential for a digital bridge between the brain and spinal cord.