Here’s proof that miracles, in a way, really do happen in real life. A 30-year-old tetraplegic man has reportedly managed to walk again thanks to a pioneering technology developed by French scientists. This is his incredible story.
According to a report by Reuters, the patient, who was only identified by the first name Thibault, temporarily regained his ability to move his limbs with the help of a four-limb robotic system or exoskeleton. The invention involves having sensors implanted in the patient which then allowed the user to send signals to the system and move the corresponding arm or leg he thought of.
It was only recently unveiled to the public but has since garnered attention from numerous publications all over the world. Speaking with the media, the tetraplegic man shared how he had to re-learn how to use his brain after being unable to move for two years. Sources say that Thibault’s paralysis was the aftermath of him breaking his neck in a fall around four years ago. But although learning to walk again was a struggle, he reports that he’s now able to stand for up two hours while wearing the exoskeleton and can even walk for long durations because of it.
The French scientists from the University of Grenoble who worked on the exoskeleton are among the many other groups who are using thought-reading brain inserts to help people like Thibault to claim control of their bodies again.
For their two-year trial, the scientists ended up implanting two devices, one on each side of Thibault’s head. The devices are comprised of 64 electrodes which are responsible for collecting and transmitting brain signals. These are then translated into the specific movements the exoskeleton-wearer was thinking about. In the end, though, the scientists noted that the device is still just an experimental prototype at the moment.
But that doesn’t mean that they’re stopping. The same team is endeavoring to make improvements in the exoskeleton’s computation speed and reaction time. They also recalled their experience with the patient who tried the robotic system before their success with Thibault. The trial ended with the implants not working just mere seconds of being turned on and left the test patient feeling disappointed.
Learning from that mistake, the scientists made improvements that culminated in the new implants still being functional after 27 months. They are now planning to use the implants on three other people. While they acknowledge that they still have a long way to go before their invention becomes applicable for general use, the team is still optimistic about the pivotal step they’ve taken. Although physical therapy is a popular treatment to address paralysis, there are currently no known cures for the condition yet.