Spinal cord injuries are life altering, all the more so because there is no known way to repair a damaged or broken nerve connection. Once the injury has occurred, options are limited to therapy and rehabilitation. So far, scientists do not know how to restore proper communication to a damaged or severed nerve. New research from Australia has found an interesting way around that problem.

Together, everyone achieves more

A team of researchers from the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health collaborated to create a new device. The particulars of their research were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology under the impressively wordy title “Minimally invasive endovascular stent-electrode array for high-fidelity, chronic recordings of cortical neural activity.”

Thankfully for the rest of us, the device has been nicknamed the “bionic spine.” About the size of a paperclip, the bionic spine is able to read and transmit signals from the motor cortex. While similar technologies already exist, implanting them requires invasive craniotomies, whereas the bionic spine can be implanted through a catheter inserted in blood vessels that lead to the brain. When the catheter is removed, the bionic spine stays behind.

As to how it works, The Guardian reported, “The outside of the bionic spine is fitted with electrodes which will detect signals from the motor cortex and send them to a small device that will be implanted in the patient’s shoulder. This device will translate the signals into commands, which will be fed to the bionic limbs via Bluetooth to tell them to move.”

Anatomy of a bionic spine

The bionic spine is essentially a stent that records and transmits brain signals. Those signals are passed to bionic limbs or exoskeletons, telling them how and where and when to move. Instead of fixing nerve damage, this technology bypasses the broken connection and provides a different way for the brain to communicate with other parts of the body.

With other researchers around the world working on methods to directly stimulate muscle movement, this neurological “holy grail” could be the first step in “curing” paralysis. Because the device is capable of recording and transmitting brain signals, researchers are hopeful that it could have other uses, particularly helping patients with neurological disorders by restoring proper intra-brain communication.

At Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, we’re excited to share news from all corners of the globe that offer hope for those in need. We believe that quality of life is as important as justice. If you or someone you know has suffered a spinal cord or brain injury, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Our experienced personal injury attorneys in Nashville, Gallatin and Knoxville fight for your rights. We fight for you. Contact us today for a free consultation.