Case study – The Precinct in Action

New device to get people with paralysis back on their feet

Melbourne medical researchers have created a new minimally invasive brain-machine interface, giving people with spinal cord injuries new hope to walk again with the power of thought.

The brain machine interface consists of a stent-based electrode (stentrode), which is implanted within a blood vessel next to the brain, and records the type of neural activity that has been shown in pre-clinical trials to move limbs through an exoskeleton or to control bionic limbs.

The development of the stentrode brought together leaders in medical research from The Royal Melbourne Hospital, The University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.

In total 39 academic scientists from a broad range of disciplines were involved in its development.

The new device is the size of a small paperclip. Pre-clinical trial results published in Nature Biotechnology in February 2016 showed that the device was capable of recording high-quality signals emitted from the brain’s motor cortex, without the need for open brain surgery.

With this new device, it is hoped to return function and mobility to patients with complete paralysis by recording brain activity and converting the acquired signals into electrical commands, which in turn would lead to movement of the limbs through a mobility assist device like an exoskeleton. In essence this a bionic spinal cord.

It is anticipated that the stentrode device will be implanted in the first in-human trial at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

 

Bringing together leaders in medical research from The Royal Melbourne Hospital, The University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.

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