Stentrode to channelize power of mind to move bionic limbs

By Staff Writer

Feb 10, 2016 05:51 AM EST

The researchers at The Royal Melbourne Hospital revealed an innovation called Stentrode that is designed to transmit brain signals to an exoskeleton or bionic limbs. This scientific breakthrough will help many paralyzed patients regain mobility, announced the hospital last Monday.

Neurologist Dr. Thomas Oxley at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, explained the finer details of the functioning of the bionic cord in a statement, according to Mail Online.

"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, avoiding the need for high risk open brain surgery," he said. The team's goal is to solely return mobility to patients rendered immobile through complete paralysis, by tapping brainwave activities and transforming the signals into electrical commands. The commands, in turn, would lead to limb movements through an exoskeleton.

"Utilizing stent technology, our electrode array self-expands to stick to the inside wall of a vein, enabling us to record local brain activity," he further explained. "By extracting the recorded neural signals, we can use these as commands to control wheelchairs, exoskeletons, prosthetic limbs or computers."

Researchers are of the opinion that, one out of every 50 people are affected by heart attack and spinal cord damages, which are leading causes of paralysis. With this clinical trial scheduled to go live in two years' time, almost 20,000 Australians suffering from spinal cord injuries and 150,000 facing post-stroke mobility issues could benefit from the results.

The medical breakthrough, as per Science Daily, has gathered leaders in medical research from The Royal Melbourne Hospital, The University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, all under one roof, for a single purpose. The research team involved 39 academic scientists from 16 departments in total. The team seems pretty confident regarding their pre-clinical study and deem the implantation safe for long-term use.

As RedOrbit represents, Professor Clive May, a neurophysiologist, reflected their sentiment when he said the quality of brain-activity recording by the tissue implant has improved manifold as they were successfully able to continue the pre-clinical over many months. "Our study also showed that it was safe and effective to implant the device via angiography, which is minimally invasive compared with the high risks associated with open brain surgery," he added.

Dr. Nicholas Opie, a biomedical engineer at the University of Melbourne, is hoping that through the clinical trial, they will succeed in getting direct brain control of an exoskeleton for three people. While there is still some time to see how this experiment fares, the medical world is calling this an "an amazing development in modern medicine" as a small device is said to record brainwave movements for prolonged periods without damaging the brain. 

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