A neuroprosthesis helps a Parkinson’s patient walk

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A neuroprótesis ha returned the ability to walk a 62-year-old French man with Parkinson’s. Marc Gautier had severe walking difficulties and targeted epidural stimulation of the spinal cord improved motor function and balance. This preview, published in Nature Medicine, highlights the potential of using this type of devices to treat movement deficits in people with Parkinson’s disease.

The patient suffered frequent falls and could not walk normally. In the past he had already tried other treatments, given that he has been living with the neurodegenerative disease for three decades. After trials in non-human primates, This is the first time this technology has been tested on a person.who has now been using the neuroprosthesis for about eight hours a day for two years.

About 90% of people with advanced Parkinson’s disease experience locomotor deficits including gait disturbances, balance problems, and episodes of freezing of the March. These deficits reduce quality of life, increase the severity of related conditions, and currently available therapies lack the necessary effectiveness. The targeted epidural electrical stimulation (EES) of the lumbosacral spinal cord modulates the activity of neurons that control locomotor movements and has recently been shown to restore standing and walking functions in people with paralysis due to spinal cord injury.

Grégoire Courtine and his joint team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the CHUV Lausanne University Hospital (Switzerland) developed a electrically targeted epidural-based neuroprosthesis to restore the natural activation of neurons in the legs that are disrupted by walking in people with Parkinson’s disease.

“Precise stimulation of the lumbar region of the spinal cord achieves remarkable improvement in movement deficits due to Parkinson’s disease. I firmly believe that this finding opens a realistic perspective to develop a treatment that alleviates gait deficits. [en estos pacientes]”explains Jocelyne Bloch, neurosurgeon at CHUV and co-director with Grégoire Courtin of the NeuroRestore center, and who has been using deep brain stimulation in Parkinson’s disease for more than 20 years.

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