A Parkinson’s patient is able to walk again without problems after a spine transplant
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Marc, 63, from Bordeaux, France, was diagnosed with the degenerative disease more than 20 years ago and has developed severe mobility problems, including poor balance and freezing of gait. After the transplant, which aims to restore normal signals to the leg muscles from the spine, he is able to walk more normally and regain his independence. “I can practically no longer walk without falling repeatedly, several times a day,” he said. “And in some situations, like entering the elevator, I would immediately step on the spot, as if I was frozen there, you could say.” “Nowadays, I’m not afraid of stairs anymore. Every Sunday I go to the lake and walk about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles). It’s incredible.”
The implant has not yet been tested in a full clinical trial. But the Swiss team, which has a long-term program to develop brain-machine interfaces to overcome paralysis, hopes their technology will offer a completely new approach to treating motor deficits in people with Parkinson’s disease. “It is impressive to see how by electrically stimulating the spinal cord in a targeted way, in the same way we did with patients with hemiplegia, we can correct gait disturbances caused by Parkinson’s disease,” said Jocelyn Bloch, a neurosurgeon and professor at Harvard Medical School. CHUV University Hospital Lausanne, which co-led the work.
First, the team developed a personalized anatomical map of Mark’s spinal cord that identified the precise locations involved in signaling the leg to move. Electrodes were then implanted at these sites, allowing stimulation to be delivered directly to the spine. The patient wears a motion sensor on each leg, and when they start walking, the implant automatically turns on and begins delivering stimulation pulses to spinal neurons. The goal is to correct abnormal signals that are sent from the brain, down the spine, to the legs in order to restore normal movement. Professor Eduardo Martin Mouroud, from Lausanne University Hospital, said: “The machine cannot control the patient at any time.” “It’s just enhancing his ability to walk.” The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, found that the implant improved gait and balance deficits, and when Mark’s gait was analyzed, it more closely resembled the gait of healthy people than the movements of other Parkinson’s patients. Mark also reported a significant improvement in his quality of life.