Digital “bridge” implants help paralysed Dutchman to walk again

Photo: CHUV/Gilles Weber

A 40-year-old Dutchman, who was paralysed in a cycling accident 12 years ago, is able to walk again by just thinking about it, thanks to electronic brain implants.

Gert-Jan Oskam, who says the medical first has changed his life, has been fitted with implants which transmit his thoughts to his legs and feet via a second implant on his spine. The implants act like a digital bridge.

“You think about making a step and you make a step. It is a natural process,” Oskam told Dutch media.

The research, published in scientific journal Nature, was led by Swiss researchers at Lausanne University. It is still in the early stages but professor Jocelyne Bloch said it was the team’s aim to get the system out of the lab and into the clinic as soon as possible.

“The important thing for us is not just to have a scientific trial, but eventually to give more access to more people with spinal cord injuries who are used to hearing from doctors that they have to get used to the fact that they will never move again,” she told the BBC.

Read the article in Nature

“I feel like a toddler, learning to walk again,” Oskam told the BBC. “It has been a long journey, but now I can stand up and have a beer with my friend. It’s a pleasure that many people don’t realise.”

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