A groundbreaking medical device has allowed a paralyzed man to regain his ability to walk naturally after more than a decade. Developed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the “brain-spine interface” connects the brain and spinal cord using implants. These implants track movement intentions in the brain and wirelessly transmit them to an external processing unit worn by the patient. The intentions are then translated into commands and sent back through a second implant to stimulate the muscles. Gert-Jan Oskam, who suffered paralysis from a motorbike accident, can now walk distances of at least 100 meters and stand unassisted for a few minutes.

What sets this device apart is that Oskam has full control over the stimulation, enabling him to initiate movement independently. By reestablishing connections between two disrupted regions of the central nervous system, the device allows for smoother movements and adaptation to different terrains. The implants have maintained a reliable connection for over a year, even during Oskam’s time at home. This successful trial opens up possibilities for treating individuals with arm and hand paralysis or those recovering from a stroke. The researchers aim to make the system more portable by reducing its size. This research marks a new era in the treatment of neurological motor limitations, offering the potential for a digital bridge between the brain and spinal cord.