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FCC grants radio spectrum to muscle-stimulating wireless devices for paralysis patients

Amar Toor, @amartoo

The medical community is all smiles today, because the FCC has decided to allocate a chunk of radio spectrum for potentially life-altering wireless devices. Designed for stroke patients and those suffering from brain or spinal cord injuries, these so-called medical micropower networks (MMN) use a set of implanted electrodes and a wearable wireless controller to stimulate the muscles of a paralyzed user. In a statement issued last week, the FCC announced that these devices have been approved for use within the 413 to 457MHz range, as requested in a petition from the Alfred Mann Foundation, which has already constructed several prototype MMN systems. The organization's CEO, David Hankin, immediately lauded the ruling, adding that the Foundation now plans to launch trials of MMN systems on humans, in the hopes of receiving clearance from the FDA. "The FCC's decision removes the most significant roadblock to helping people," Hankin said. "The frequency that has been approved for use is the most efficient for penetrating tissue with radio waves and without which the new generation of our implantable neurostimulator technology would be impossible to advance."

The significance of the occasion wasn't lost on FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, either. "These broadband-enabled technologies are life-changing, impacting individuals, families, and communities in ways we can only begin to imagine," Genachowski said in a prepared statement. His sentiments were echoed in remarks from fellow commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who heralded the decision as "one of the most important the commission has adopted during my tenure," citing its potential to "greatly improve the lives of those who are faced with some of today's most difficult medical challenges."

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