Animal research has paved the way for a spinal implant that has given a 62-year-old man with Parkinson's disease the ability to walk again.
Researchers from the University of Lausanne and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, gave the nerve-stimulating implant to patient, Marc Gauthier (pictured), who had been diagnosed with Parkinson's two decades ago and, despite other treatments, had lost the ability to walk, until now.
Before human trials, the research team conducted experiments on monkeys with movement difficulties like those experienced by individuals with Parkinson's.
Three monkeys received new spinal implants and brain-computer interfaces to detect their walking intentions. The scientists then successfully restored the walking ability of all the animals by administering short bursts of electrical signals through the spinal implants.
The article was published in Nature Medicine.
Meanwhile, researchers at Uppsala University, Sweden, have identified a new brain circuit, that causes discomfort, by performing experiments using light and genetic engineering in mice.
This may explain side effects in Parkinson's deep brain stimulation treatments, such as the ones taken by Marc Gauthier.