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Reversing Paralysis By Boston Perry

French neuroscientist, Gregoire Courtine, is the head of an amazing biotechnological advancement that may change the field of medical intervention forever. He and his team created a device that seemed to allow monkeys to regain mobility in their limbs after experiencing paralysis. Essentially, the electrical signals sent from the brain to the spinal cord can be bridged using this device. This device shows that paralysis may not be as permanent as we once thought. But first, what exactly is paralysis?

Paralysis occurs when a vertebra or vertebrae become injured within the spinal column. This can imply that the vertebrae may have been compressed, fractured, or even shattered. With the fragile anatomy of the spinal column, various activities can lead to spinal injury. People are at much higher risk for injury if not taking proper precautions or using proper form when dealing with heavy objects. Luckily, not all spinal injuries end up resulting in paralysis of some sort. However, it is essential to prevent the possibility of paralysis so one does not have to use this technology. If the spinal cord does, however, get injured, the electrical signals cannot effectively pass through the fragile nerves. Because these electrical signals aren’t being transmitted, the brain may lose control over some part of the body. Unfortunately, in the United States, paralysis effects around 1.9 million people. Some patients being worse than others, paralysis can sometimes effect the entire body, leaving them immobile. With this new development introduced by Courtine and his team, they are confident that paralysis may soon be an issue of the past.

In Fact, Gregiore and his team were so confident that their device worked that they used a blade to partially cut into the monkey’s spinal cord, paralyzing it’s right leg. Once done, they applied the device to the monkey’s brain and spinal cord. They were astounded to see that the monkey was not only able to regain mobility in the leg that had been previously paralyzed, but was able to “perform much more sophisticated movement”. This incredible device is comprised of two wireless implants that work together. They are often referred to as a “brain-spine interface”, which describes how signals from the brain are allowed to be passed to the spinal cord using this device. The implant that is positioned on the brain acts as a receiver for the constant electrical signals being sent out through nerves. This sensor is very sensitive, containing 100 electrodes. It is also positioned on the motor cortex, allowing the signals for motor control function to be transmitted. On the other hand, the second implant is located on the spinal cord and acts as a stimulator for the surrounding nerve cells. The electrical signals put out by the stimulator vary based on the brain’s commands and the computer processor. This ability of the device is one of the most important in perfecting the replication of a normal functioning nerve path.

Of course, there have been ethical concerns regarding the wellbeing of the monkeys used in the testing of this device. These concerns were put forth not only by critics, but the scientists themselves that were involved in the trials. Essentially, the concerns were directed toward the incisions that had to be made into the monkeys’ spinal cords in order to paralyze them. This, by some, is seen unethical due to the fact that they had to induce paralysis in order to try and reverse it. To cope with the criticism they were facing, they adjusted the experimental operations accordingly. The incisions made into the monkeys’ spinal cords were minimized to ensure the healing process was brief and easy. Gregoire mentioned that the procedure was done in the least invasive way possible, which allows about three to six months of recovery. The main rebuttal offered by the scientists voices how they are using these few monkeys to test a device that may benefit many people struggling with paralysis.

Credits:

Created with images by MikeBlogs - "neurons" • Waldkunst - "fuchs spine dead" • GreenFlames09 - "Brain Model 4" • Public Domain Photos - "Blank-Printed-Circuit-Board_Empty-PCB__IMG_4407_cr" • Engin_Akyurt - "surgery hospital doctor" • Fæ - "Child with infantile paralysis walking on hands and feet (rbm-QP301M8-1887-539a~1)"

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