People paralyzed because of spinal cord injuries could one day be able to walk again, thanks to an implant that helps send "lost signals" from the brain to leg muscles. In Nature Medicine and the New England Journal of Medicine, research teams report that several patients -- all paralyzed from the waist down -- have been able to walk again after having the electrical patch fitted to their spinal cords. The approach is called epidural stimulation.
The device, originally developed to help manage pain, comprises 16 electrodes and is placed just below the site of the injury, covering the areas that send sensorimotor signals to the legs. A battery is then implanted inside the abdominal wall, which allows stimulation to be controlled wirelessly. When activated, the device appears to help signals from the brain reach the target muscles, so the person can voluntarily control their own movements again.