The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Battelle have developed Neurobridge, an electronic neural bypass for spinal cord injuries that has allowed a paralyzed man to move his limbs. Ian Burkhart, a 23-year-old quadriplegic, is the first patient to use the Neurobridge technology, which reconnects the brain directly to muscles and allows voluntary and functional control of a paralyzed limb. Burkhart was able to move his fingers and hand with his own thoughts, according to a news release from Ohio State University, Wexner Medical Center.

Burkhart is the first of a possible five participants in a clinical study to utilize the technology. The Neurobridge technology combines algorithms that learn and decode the user’s brain and transmits new signals to the paralyzed limb. In this case, Burkhart’s brain signals bypass his injured spinal cord and move his hand. Chad Bouton, research leader at Battelle, explains, “It’s much like a heart bypass, but instead of bypassing blood, we’re actually bypassing electrical signals. We’re taking those signals from the brain, going around the injury, and actually going directly to the muscles.”

The Ohio State University news release notes that working on the internally funded project for nearly a decade to develop the algorithms, software, and stimulation sleeve, Battelle scientists first recorded neural impulses from an electrode array implanted in a paralyzed person’s brain. The researchers then used that data to illustrate the device’s effect on the patient and prove the concept. Two years ago, Bouton and his team began collaborating with Ohio State neuroscience researchers and clinicians Ali Rezai, MD, and Dr. Jerry Mysiwto.

The researchers worked together to design the clinical trials and validate the feasibility of using Neurobridge technology in patients. During a 3-hour surgery on April 22, a small chip was implanted onto the motor cortex of Burkhart’s brain. The tiny chip interprets brain signals and sends them to a computer, which records and sends them to the high-definition electrode stimulation sleeve that stimulates the proper muscles to execute his desired movements.

Within a tenth of second, Burkhart’s thoughts were translated into action. Rezai says the technology may one day help patients affected by various brain and spinal cord injuries, such as traumatic brain injury and stroke.

Burkhart, who was paralyzed 4 years ago during a diving accident, states, “It’s definitely great for me to be as young as I am when I was injured because the advancements in science and technology are growing rapidly and they’re only going to continue to increase.”

Photo Appears Courtesy of Ohio State University, Wexner Medical Center

[Source: Ohio State University, Wexner Medical Center]