A paralysed man in Holland was given the incredible ability to walk again thanks to the use of brain implants.
A once paralysed man who lives in Holland has now successfully regained the ability to walk again simply by thinking about it.
This miraculous ability is thanks to the installation of electronic brain implants into his body, a medical first that the man claims has changed his life in such a positive way and one which he never thought possible before.
While the use of electronic brain implants is still at the experimental stage, a leading UK spinal charity has hailed it as “very encouraging”.
Gert-Jan Oskam − paralysed in a tragic cycling accident
Gert-Jan Oskam is a 40-year-old Dutch man who was tragically paralysed in a cycling accident over 12 years ago but has been able to experience walking again thanks to medical advancements.
Speaking about what it feels like to walk again, Mr Oskam said, “I feel like a toddler, learning to walk again. It has been a long journey, but now I can stand up and have a beer with my friend. It’s a pleasure that many people don’t realise”.
The fantastic development, which was published in the journal Nature, was spearheaded by Swiss researchers.
Professor Jocelyne Bloch of Lausanne University, who was the neurosurgeon who carried out the incredibly delicate surgery to insert the implants into Gert-Jan Oskam, explained that their main aim is to enable as many people as possible to be able to walk again.
Speaking about her aim of helping people, Prof Jocelyne Bloch said, “The important thing for us is not just to have a scientific trial, but eventually to give more access to more people with spinal cord injuries who are used to hearing from doctors that they have to get used to the fact that they will never move again.”
Brain implants − helping Gert-Jan Oskam to walk again
The electronic brain implants were inserted into Gert-Jan Oskam during a surgery carried out in July 2021.
The process involved cutting two circular holes on both sides of his skull, which were approximately 5 cm in diameter.
The inserted brain implants wirelessly transmit brain signals to two sensors attached to a helmet on Gert-Jan’s head.
These signals are translated into instructions to move and use leg and foot muscles via a second implant inserted around Gert-Jan’s spinal cord.
Research showed that after a few weeks of training, Gert-Jan had remarkably gained the ability to stand and walk again with the aid of a walker.
Harvey Sihota − chief executive of the UK charity Spinal Research
When speaking about the potential of electronic brain implants, Harvey Sihota, who is chief executive of the UK charity Spinal Research, explained that while much more definitive research is required, the results are promising.
“While there is still much to improve with these technologies, this is another exciting step on the roadmap for neurotechnology and its role in restoring function and independence to our spinal cord injury community”, Harvey stated.