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Implants Allow Paralyzed Patients With Severed Spinal Cords to Walk Again.

In the journal "Advanced Science", Israeli researchers used human materials and cells to design functional 3D human spinal cord ti...

In the journal "Advanced Science", Israeli researchers used human materials and cells to design functional 3D human spinal cord tissue for the first time, and implanted it into long-term chronic paralysis in animal models. Experimental results showed that 80% of the test subjects regained the ability to walk. The significance of this breakthrough is that it used tissue samples from patients and transformed them into functioning spinal cord implants by mimicking the process of spinal cord development in human embryos.

The human body has many mysteries, but it is also very fragile, and it will always be injured for various reasons. Philip, the protagonist in the movie "Untouchable", was paralyzed because of a skydiving accident. Worldwide, millions of people are paralyzed by spinal cord injuries, so many are confined to a wheelchair, or even bedridden, like Philip in the movie.

As a serious disabling disease, spinal cord injury will not only make patients lose their ability to move, but also seriously affect the quality of life of patients. Currently, there is no very effective treatment. Therefore, in the eyes of many people, it can be called a "miracle" if a patient who is paralyzed due to spinal cord injury can stand up and walk again. Some patients have achieved standing and walking again through the bionic exoskeleton. The implant developed by the Swiss research team makes the miracle one more possibility.

Our legs move freely because nerves in the spinal cord send signals from the brain to the legs. So when nerves are damaged by injury, some people become paralyzed. In Michel Roccati, whose spinal cord was completely severed in a motorcycle accident, a research team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) surgically connected an electronic implant to his spine.

According to how the implant works: Nerves in the spinal cord send signals from the brain to the legs. When the spine is damaged, these signals are usually weakened, making it impossible to produce movement. The patient walks. The implants in Michel's body, when opened, send signals to his legs, allowing him to walk.

David M'zee, who has implants in his body like Michel, is able to walk with a walker under the action of the implants, and his health has improved as a result. Nine people have so far had the implants and have regained some walking ability, though it has only helped them walk briefly in everyday life. According to Professor Grégoire Courtine, who led the team developing the technology at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), there is still a long way to go before the technology can be used routinely to help paralyzed people walk.

That said, the implant won't cure spinal injuries, and the technology is still too complex to be used routinely in everyday life, but patients could use it to build muscle, practice walking, and improve their quality of life. The technology is also an important step forward in research to restore mobility to paralyzed patients.

It is worth mentioning that the cure for paralysis requires spinal cord regeneration, possibly using stem cell therapy, which is also still in the early stages of research. Professor Courtine believes that, once ready, his implant technique could be used in conjunction with nerve regeneration treatments. Perhaps it will be in the not-too-distant future to regain the lost mobility.


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