Implants in the brain and spine allow paralyzed people to walk again
V12 years ago Dutchman Gert-Jan Oskam was involved in a motorcycle accident. After that, the 40-year-old was paralyzed from the neck down due to a spinal cord injury. A Swiss research team led by Jocelyne Bloch from the University of Lausanne has now succeeded in sending signals to nerve cells in Oksam’s feet and legs via implants on both sides of his head and in his spine, so that he can move them again.
The operation, in which two five-centimetre holes were sawn into the patient’s skull on the left and right, took place in July 2021. The implants are in the areas of the brain responsible for running. It then took a few weeks before Oskam could stand and take the first steps with a walking aid.
He felt like a toddler learning to walk, said the Dutchman when he took his first steps in public this week. The researchers’ findings were described as “encouraging”. Bloch, who is currently reporting on her research in Nature magazine, wants to treat more patients with spinal cord injuries as quickly as possible. Last year she had already succeeded in using implants to help another paraplegic get back on his feet: Michel Roccati, who, however, can only walk according to predetermined programs.