Spinal Implant Breakthrough
The mobility of a man with advanced Parkinson's disease has been restored using an electrical implant placed on his lower spine, according to a study published yesterday. Experts caution the technology, if successful in expanded clinical trials, would not be commercially available for five to 10 years.
The patient, Marc Gauthier, was diagnosed with Parkinson's over 30 years ago. The disease led to significant mobility issues, where he reported falling up to six times a day. Two years ago, researchers inserted a neuroprosthetic device in his lower spine to send signals to areas of his body showing weakness. The procedure corrected Gauthier's irregular manner of walking and allowed him to go for miles at a time without falling.
Parkinson's is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the world, afflicting over 6 million individuals. The disease stems from the premature decay of dopamine-producing neurons in the midbrain (watch overview). Treatments typically involve mimicking dopamine in the relevant neural region, though their efficacy declines over time.