Giving Movement Back to Patients With Spinal Problems

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Xray of spineAs technology has rapidly improved in recent years, there have been enormous advancements in medical treatments. With around one-quarter of Americans suffering from musculoskeletal impairments, spinal issues are no exception.

According to IEEE Spectrum, researchers at Columbia’s School of Engineering are attempting to help the 3% of children diagnosed with the abnormal curving of the spine called scoliosis with an advanced mechanism.

Currently, children with this condition typically must spend years inside a rigid, plastic, and uncomfortable brace.

The researchers are now hoping to replace this outdated tech with a new “smart exoskeleton.”

Their prototype is able to bend and move with the patient’s body, while maintaining targeted force on inhibited regions of the spine. This allows the children to participate in a multitude of activities they would not be able to otherwise.

Taking things a step further, the brace can gather data from sensors measuring the amount of force required to align the body.

Providing information on how a patient’s condition is responding to a particular treatment, can offer better insight about their effectiveness.

In a seemingly science fictional technical advancement, Fox News Health reports that scientists in Australia have developed another “bionic spine” device to return movement to paralyzed patients using brain synapses.

While there are existing devices that allow paraplegics to regain some movement, most have a high risk of infection or other complications.

This new implant measures only about an inch long and 0.12 inches wide, roughly the size of a paper clip. This allows for minimally invasive surgery.

The bionic spine previously tested on sheep, uses electrodes to detect signals from the motor cortex and are then transmitted to the small device implanted inside the shoulder.

After these signals are converted into commands, they are sent to bionic limbs using Bluetooth to control movement.

The implant requires only a small incision in the patient’s neck, where the surgeon feeds a catheter with the bionic spine through blood vessels connected to the brain. The catheter extends up to the motor cortex but is then removed, leaving the device in place.

In 2017, the device will be implanted and tested in three patients at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Victoria, Australia.

More:

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