Micro implants could restore standing and walking

When Vivian Mushahwar first applied to grad school, she wrote about her idea to fix paralysis by rewiring the spinal cord.

It was only after she was accepted into a bioengineering program that the young electrical engineer learned her idea had actually prompted laughter.

“I figured, hey I can fix it, it’s just wires,” Mushahwar said. “Yeah, well, it’s not just wires. So I had to learn the biology along the way.”

It’s taken Mushahwar a lot of work over two decades at the University of Alberta, but the Canada Research Chair in Functional Restoration is still fixated on the dream of helping people walk again. And thanks to an electrical spinal implant pioneered in her laboratory and work in mapping the spinal cord, that dream could become a reality in the next decade.

Because an injured spinal cord dies back, it’s not simply a matter of reconnecting a cable. Three herculean feats are needed. You have to translate brain signals. You have to figure out and control the spinal cord. And you have got to get the two sides talking again.

People tend to think the brain does all the thinking, but Mushahwar says the spinal cord has built-in intelligence. A complex chain of motor and sensory networks regulate everything from breathing to bowels, while the brain stem’s contribution is basically “go!” and “faster!” Your spinal cord isn’t just moving muscles, it’s giving you your natural gait. Read full article HERE.

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