Since the 1990s, a lab at Duke University under Dr. Miguel Nicolelis has been working on virtual reality and robotics as a way to help paralyzed people to walk. A recent joint biotechnology industry study conducted by Nicolelis’s team and the Walk Again Project in Brazil has resulted in the unexpected side effect of returning feeling and some muscle control to paralyzed patients, some of whom have been unable to walk for years, according to the Financial Times.
The therapy is a two-step procedure.
The patients are hooked up to a virtual reality system where they are asked to imagine walking to move an avatar that they see through an Oculus Rift headset. After several months of practice, the patients can move the avatar at will.
Next, the patients use various devices, including an exoskeleton that allows them to walk. They wear a haptic device that gives them the sensation of walking over various surfaces. At this point, all eight patients in the most recent study began to recover some feeling and control in their lower limbs.
Nicolelis postulated that people who have been diagnosed as completely paralyzed have, in fact, intact nerves in their spinal cords that have become dormant. The therapy regimen stimulates these nerves into life, sending signals from the brain for the first time since the paralysis.
The research has the potential to change the lives of millions of people who have been confined to wheelchairs as the result of spinal cord injuries. Nicolelis suggests that the same procedure could help people with impairments due to strokes.
The next step is to design simpler, less bulky, and cheaper equipment that could be used in clinics around the world.
Please contact us to learn more about our expertise in Executive Search for Commercial Leadership positions in Medical Device and Biotechnology; including Marketing, Strategy, Sales Leadership, Training, Development, etc. We look forward to the opportunity to help you consistently improve your performance and your business!
Follow me on Twitter @PrimeCoreSearch.