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Paralyzed Hand With Grasp Ability? Yes, That's Possible Now

Update Date: May 20, 2014 01:10 PM EDT
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For the very first time, researchers have been able to restore the ability to grasp with a paralyzed hand. 

Up until now, there is not any cure for limb paralysis that involves damage of the nerves that send messages to the muscle from the brain. However researchers at Newcastle University, are now showing that the restoration of the movement is possible. Researchers connected the brain to a computer and then the computer to the spinal cord. 

The experiment that has been carried on the macaque monkey, opens new prospect of treatments that will enable stroke victims regain some movement in their arms and hands.

"When someone has a damaged motor cortex or spinal cord the problem is that the signal from the brain to the muscles isn't getting through. What we have done here is restore that connection, to allow the signal telling the hand to move to reach the spinal cord. By exploiting surviving neural networks below the injury, we can activate natural actions like grasping using just a few stimulation sites. This is the first time that anyone has done that," said Dr Andrew Jackson, Research Fellow at Newcastle University and Dr Jonas Zimmermann, now at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA, in the press release.

He added that in the next stage he plans to further develop the technology to eventually have a small implant for use in patients that can then form the link between brain and the muscles. 

"Much of the technology we used for this is already being used separately in patients today, and has been proven to work. We just needed to bring it all together," he added.

"I think within five years we could have an implant which is ready for people. And what is exciting about this technology is that it would not just be useful for people with spinal injuries but also people who have suffered from a stroke and have impaired movement due to that. There are some technical challenges which we have to overcome, as there is with any new technology, but we are making good progress."

The work is published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.

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