spinalcordFor several decades, scientists have been working to restore control in spinal injury patients; only the researchers have been trying to restore control to monkeys with spinal cord injuries.

Well, it looks like the team has finally made a breakthrough.

Scientists have just announced they have developed a set of wireless brain and spinal cord implants that have successfully helped monkeys with severed spinal cords regain the ability to control their once-paralyzed limbs. Some could even walk again.

On Wednesday, in the scientific journal Nature, the research team reported the device is the very first ever designed to give a paralyzed primate the ability to control its limbs with its brain again.

“We’re actually taking brain signals and putting them back into the nervous system at the spinal cord level to activate locomotion,” comments study co-author David Borton. The Brown University neuroengineer goes on to say, “That hasn’t been done before.”

Gaurav Sharma is a neuroscientist with experience in restoring arm movement in some paralyzed patients during his time with the non-profit research organization Battelle Memorial Institute. He comments on the project: “They have demonstrated that the animals can regain not only coordinated but also weight-bearing function, which is important for locomotion. This is great work.”

Chad Bouton is the director of the Feinstein Institute’s Center for Bioelectronic Medicine, in New York. The leader of a related study that used an implant and an electronic sleeve to restore some control to a quadriplegic man, in April, notes, “Theis study helps to open exciting new pathways to clinical studies and new bioelectronic treatment options for patients living with paralysis.”

Bouton goes on to say, “It does continue to show that this idea of rerouting signals from the brain to paralyzed muscles is very promising for treating paralyzed muscles is very promising for treating paralysis and neurological injuries.”

This is not an isolated study and sudden breakthrough, though. This is part of a larger and longer progression of studies based on several decades of works on lab rats. And, of course, this is not the end either. The results were not, necessarily perfect, but they showed immense progress over earlier stages of research and certainly assert that research should continue. The hope, of course, is to one day be able to restore full movement and control to spinal cord injury patients.