Today, May 26
Photo: WEBER GILLES
In Switzerland, the life of the Dutchman Gert-Jan Oskam, who was paralyzed 12 years ago as a result of a bicycle accident, has changed dramatically.
Doctors implanted him with brain implants that literally broadcast his thoughts to his legs, forcing them to walk.
The whole system is in the experimental stage, but according to experts, this is a very promising experiment.
The man is now able to not only walk, but also stand upright and climb stairs.
“I feel like a toddler just learning to walk,” Oskam told the BBC. – It was a long way, but now I can stand on my feet and even have a beer with my friends. And it’s such a pleasure that many people don’t even think about.”
The authors of the new development, which is reported by the publication Nature, were Swiss researchers. A delicate surgical operation to transplant the implants was performed by a neurosurgeon from the University of Lausanne, Professor Jocelyn Bloch.
The operation to restore Gert-Jan Oskam’s ability to move independently was completed in July 2021. Professor Bloch made two round holes five centimeters in diameter on either side of his skull, in the area of the brain responsible for controlling movement. Two disc-shaped implants were placed in these holes, which transmit brain signals, that is, essentially Gert-Jan’s wishes, to two sensors mounted on a special helmet that he puts on his head.
Swiss scientists have developed an algorithm that, through a second implant in the spinal cord, converts these signals into instructions for leg muscles. This second implant, Professor Bloch cleverly connected to the nerve endings involved in the process of walking.
After several weeks of training, the researchers found that a paralyzed man can not only stand on his feet, but also move around, however, with the help of a walker.
According to the head of this scientific project, Professor Grégoire Curtin from the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne, the movements of the paralyzed are slow, but smooth.
“It’s very touching to see how naturally he moves, – says the scientist, – compared to what was available before, this is a huge shift.”
New brain implants amplify the weak signal from the brain to the damaged part of the spine, accompanied by additional programmed signals from the computer.
Oskam is not the first patient to receive a spinal implant. In 2018, such an operation was performed on David Mzee, and so successfully that he and his wife were then able to conceive a child.
Later, a similar operation was performed on Michel Rocatty, who completely lost sensation in both legs after a motorcycle accident. He, too, began to walk thanks to Swiss technology.
The ultimate goal of scientists remains the miniaturization of their device. Founded by Professor Curtin, Onward Medical is now committed to improving technology for commercial use so that people can use these devices in their daily lives.
“Still ahead Professor Curtin says – Gert-Jan received implants 10 years after the accident, and imagine what would happen if we applied our system just a few weeks after the injury. The potential for recovery would be huge.”
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Tags: Switzerland paralyzed man received implants brain spine