Scientists Say Electrical Implant Helping Those With Spine Injuries Walk

Beverly Cantrell - February 14, 2022 1:26 pm

CBS News-

More promising news from scientists who developed a spinal implant to help paralyzed people walk again.

Michel Roccati was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident five years ago. His spinal cord was completely severed. But doctors in Switzerland helped him walk again with an electrical implant surgically attached to his spine.

Using a remote control, the device sends signals to activate his leg muscles. “I stand up, I walk where I want alone, I can do the stairs,” Roccati says.

Researchers say it’s the first time someone this injured has been able to walk again. “This is not a cure for spinal cord injury, but it’s a critical step to improve people’s quality of life,” says Dr. Gregoire Courtine, a neuroscientist with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

David Mzee was one of the first patients to receive the implant after being paralyzed in a gymnastics accident. Five years later, he’s made huge strides.

At his home in Zurich, he’s now a father racing with his one-year-old daughter, Zoe. “It’s the first time I’ve been walking with her in that way. She with a baby walker, I with my walker,” Mzee says. “She even beats me without the walker, it’s a bit embarrassing.” Mzee has also taken up kitesurfing, able to make slight movements with his feet to control the board, even with his implant turned off.

The technology isn’t designed to help people walk in their everyday lives, it’s practice to exercise their muscles. “We are going to empower them with the ability to stand, take some steps,” Dr. Courtine says.

So far, nine people have had success in trials and scientists say the implant seems to help repair damaged nerves.

Swiss researchers plan to launch a bigger trial in about a year involving up to 100 patients. The implant research is published in the journal Nature Medicine.


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