Thanks to a new technology developed in Switzerland using Artificial Intelligence (AI), a paralyzed patient with a broken spine could walk for the first time.
The 30–year–old Italian Michel Roccati, whose spine was severed entirely and paralyzed due to a motorcycle accident four years ago, became the first patient to be treated with the device developed at the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne in Switzerland.
Roccat, who could not feel his feet, could walk on his own after the operation, thanks to a device placed on his spine.
As part of the technology, two small remote controls were placed on Roccati’s walker, which was surgically implanted in his spine, and wirelessly connected to a tablet.
Signals are sent to the patient’s abdomen through the device controlled by Artificial Intelligence (AI) software.
The device directs these signals by stimulating specific neurons in the spine so that they can move. When the patient is ready, he presses the right button on the walker with the intention of walking, and the left foot also takes action and steps. Next time, pressing the left button activates the right foot.
Roccat, who managed to walk this way, expressed his feelings with the words, “The first few steps were incredible; my dream came true.”
Stating that he has been going through a challenging training period for several months and has set himself a set of goals, Roccati noted that he can now go up and down the stairs and wants to be able to walk a kilometer until spring.
There may be hope for paralyzed patients to be able to walk, swim, and bike.
A similar study was successfully attempted in 2018 in a paralyzed patient with a spinal injury. The peculiarity of this study is that this technology gave successful results in a patient whose spine was severed entirely for the first time.
Paralyzed patients in the study published in the journal Nature Medicine can stand, walk, climb stairs, even swim and pedal with the help of this technology. In addition, it was stated that one patient also managed to become a father.
The experts who developed the technology, Gregoire Courtine and Jocelyne Blochbu, underline that the technology does not offer a cure for spinal cord injury and is still highly complex to use in everyday life.
Studies are underway to develop this technology further, which is a candidate for improving the quality of life of paralyzed patients.