Neuroscientists at the University Hospital of Lausanne, Switzerland, have developed a neuroprosthesis that makes this possible Parkinson’s patients in advanced stages they can walk normally again, an ability they lose in nine out of ten casesand they presented the first patient in the world treated with this technology.
After several months of rehabilitation Marc, 62 year old FrenchmanHe received the new neuroprosthesis with which he has completely overcome his walking difficulties since it did not respond to any of the treatments he received, he says in statements to EFE in a subsidiary press presentation of Progress. Scientist.
“At first I didn’t think I would feel an immediate effect, but when they implanted the neuroprosthesis in me, I felt the improvement,” says the project’s pilot patient, who previously had great difficulty moving and could not climb, take steps or stand turn around, everything you can now do naturally, safely and without the risk of falling.
The change is such that Marc now runs about six kilometers without assistancewithout pain or fatigue.
Selective and personalized stimulation
Before testing on humans, experiments were carried out on primates to determine what parameters the neuroprosthesis should have, such as the power required, the area to be stimulated, etc the best way to do it.
“We have been working together for many years in spinal cord stimulation selectively, to restore locomotion after injuries,” explains Spanish neuroengineer Eduardo Martín Moraud, responsible for the project called NeuroRestore and pioneer in other research with paraplegic patients, to EFE.
Unlike paraplegia, Parkinson’s disease does not prevent disease The brain sends the movement instructions via the spinal cord to the legs, but “alters or weakens” the transmission of this message.
“Parkinson’s is a very asymmetric disease, so it generally only affects one side of the body and with this technique we can selectively stimulate the most affected region,” says Martín Moraud.
The neuroprosthesiss consists of electrodes which are installed above the spinal cord and are directly connected to a neurostimulator implanted in the subcutaneous area of the abdomen, which in turn is controlled from the outside via a remote control.
Regarding the implantation technique, neurosurgeon and co-director of NeuroRestore, Jocelyne Bloch, claims that it is a “totally personalized” procedure, since during the surgical procedure the stimulation effect of the electrodes is tested to adjust their position and power. This depends on the reaction of his muscles to the stimuli.
A progress with future projection
Given Marc’s successful case, the NeuroRestore team is planning the next implementation an experiment with between 80 and 100 participants to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of the neuroprosthesis and therefore seek approval from health authorities for its use.
“In the long term, the idea is that this treatment will be available to every patient with Parkinson’s, as will deep brain stimulation treatment to control the tremors and stiffness caused by this disease,” explains the professor of neuroscience at the University of California . Federal Polytechnic University of Lausanne (EPFL) and co-director of NeuroRestore, Grégoire Courtine.
According to the expert, the team has the ambition to create something a technology adapted to specific needs of patients, depending on how the disease develops in each of them.
For that, will take place in the coming months further clinical studies with six patients, funded with contributions from the Michael Fox Foundation, founded by the actor Michael Fox, one of the world’s most famous people with Parkinson’s for his role in the “Back to the Future” trilogy Funds research to find a cure for this degenerative disease.
“We need a versatile neuroprosthetic system. To achieve this, we will develop a new algorithm based on artificial intelligence that will allow us to personalize stimulation on the fly,” says Courtine.
To this end, the experts also plan to further train specialists from various areas of healthcare and technology in this area can work together in the further development and future application of this new neuroprosthesis.