We live in a time when technology is developing at breakneck speeds. Things that seemed impossible ten years ago are now routine parts of life. Medical technology is part of this rapid evolution as well. Last week, paralyzed man Ian Burkhart showed us just how far the field has come while giving us a glimpse of the future.
Burkhart was paralyzed in 2010 after breaking his back on a sandbar in a diving accident. He’s been unable to move his extremities ever since – until last week, that is. Researchers at Ohio State University implanted a microchip in his brain which enabled him to move his hands for the first time since the accident.
The tiny .15 inch chip takes signals from Burhart’s brain, decodes them, and then sends messages to electrodes in his arms that would normally be sent from the spinal column. Researcher Chad Bouton compared the technology to a heart bypass.
“It’s like a heart bypass, but we’re bypassing electrical signals instead of blood,” Bouton said. “We take signals from the brain, go around the injury and go directly to the muscles.”
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During a trial, Burkhart was able to make a fist, open it fully, and grab a spoon.
Here’s a clip from the test:
Burkhart is hopeful that the technology will continue to progress and one day allow him to reclaim some of the independence he so sorely misses.
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“You have to rely on other people so much,” he said. “It would really be nice to just do something as simple as open up a water bottle myself.”