Device Lets Fully Paralyzed Rats Walk Again, and Human Trials Are Planned
Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology have come up with a way of reactivating severed spinal cords in paralyzed rats using epidural electrical stimulation (EES), allowing them the ability to walk again via remote control. Human trials for their system should begin shortly as well.
“We have complete control of the rat’s hind legs,” EPFL neuroscientist Grégoire Courtine said in a statement. “The rat has no voluntary control of its limbs, but the severed spinal cord can be reactivated and stimulated to perform natural walking. We can control in real-time how the rat moves forward and how high it lifts its legs.”
The first step was to tune the EES pulses accurately enough to control the fine motor functions of a normal gait. To do this, the researchers put paralyzed rats onto a treadmill and supported them with a robotic harness. After several weeks of testing, the researchers had mapped out how to stimulate the rats’ nervous systems precisely enough to get them to put one paw in front of the other.
Next, the team developed a robust algorithm that could monitor a host of factors like muscle action and ground reaction force in real-time. By feeding this information into the algorithm, EES impulses could be precisely controlled, extremely quickly.
The result, the researchers say, is a closed-loop system that can make paralyzed subjects mobile.
Courtine is quick to note in the above EPFL video that while his team hasn’t found the cure for spinal cord injury-related paralysis, they’ve developed a system that can, and will be scaled to human size.
According to the researchers, human trials are scheduled to begin during summer 2015. The trials will take place at the EPFL, in a specially-designed Gait system, which includes a treadmill, harness support for the subjects, and myriad cameras and sensors to measure their performance.
We are angry, frustrated, and in pain because of the violence and murder of Black people by the police because of racism. We are in the fight AGAINST RACISM. George Floyd was murdered, his life stolen. The Adafruit teams have specific actions we’ve done, are doing, and will do together as a company and culture. We are asking the Adafruit community to get involved and share what you are doing. The Adafruit teams will not settle for a hash tag, a Tweet, or an icon change. We will work on real change, and that requires real action and real work together. That is what we will do each day, each month, each year – we will hold ourselves accountable and publish our collective efforts, partnerships, activism, donations, openly and publicly. Our blog and social media platforms will be utilized in actionable ways. Join us and the anti-racist efforts working to end police brutality, reform the criminal justice system, and dismantle the many other forms of systemic racism at work in this country, read more @ adafruit.com/blacklivesmatter
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.