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'Bionic Spine' Enables Paralyzed Patients To Subconsciously Control Bionic Limbs

Update Date: Feb 10, 2016 06:23 PM EST
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A new bionic spine may get patients of spinal chord injuries back to their feet.

Scientists from Australia have developed a "bionic spine," which is a tiny, paperclip sized device that can be a brain implant. At present, it is going to be tested on three paraplegic patients in Melbourne in the following year, and will enable patients suffering from paralysis to control equipment that will subconsciously move robotic limbs.

"It's the holy grail for research in bionics," said Terence O'Brien, a doctor from the Royal Melbourne Hospital, according to the Telegraph.

A team of 39 scientists implanted a 1-inch stent, with 12 electrodes beside the brain's motor cortex that controls movement. This implantation involves the insertion of the stent into a neck vein through a catheter and then pushed up into the cortex.

Due to the elastic properties of the metal stent, it can be bent and compressed, so that it easily traverse through the brain, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

In just hours, it can reduce the risk of the brain injury that might accompany such implants.

The stent can get electrical signals sent out from the cortex and then to a device implanted in the shoulder. This then translates the signals into commands that might be sent wirelessly to bionic limbs or exoskeleton suits.

"The technical problem was how do you safely leave electrodes inside the brain, in a blood vessel inside the brain, without causing any damage to the subject," said Tom Oxley, lead researcher of the device. "We have been able to create the world's only minimally invasive device that is implanted into a blood vessel in the brain via a simple day procedure."

Patients will need a buffer time to use it, along with some training, which will help them to take advantage of their thoughts to move the bionic limbs. They will then go on to the process becoming subconscious, according to ScienceAlert.

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