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Paralysed man can walk again thanks to electrical implant

A paralysed man, whose spinal cord was completely severed after a motorcycle accident five years ago, can now walk again.

Michel Roccati has no feeling at all in his legs but, thanks to an implant developed by a team of Swiss researchers, is now able to walk freely.

The implant was inserted and electrodes were attached to individual nerve fibres in his spine. Although this isn’t a cure for his spinal injury, the technology is a major step in improving his quality of life.

With a previously very active lifestyle, ever since his accident, Michel has been determined to make as much progress as possible. The technology has helped a total of nine paralysed people to walk and regain confidence with one individual becoming a father as a result of his improved health.

Although the technology is too complicated at this stage for patients to use to walk in their everyday lives, they use it to practice walking to exercise their muscles.

Dr Ram Hariharan, a consultant at Northern General Hospital in Sheffield who is independent of the research team, said: “They have done something that has not been done before. I have not heard of any study where they have put in an implant [into a patient with a complete spinal cord cut] and demonstrated muscle movements and improving balance, enough to stand and walk."

The implant sends signals directly to Michel’s legs when it is turned on, enabling him to walk. Otherwise, there is no signal at all to his legs as the spinal cord is completely severed.

Rachel Rees, Solicitor Consultant in personal injury at Potter Rees Dolan, said:

Any development towards improving the quality of life and independence of those affected by spinal cord injury is very encouraging; whilst the surgeon involved is clear this is not a cure for paralysis, it is likely to pave the way for other helpful research towards that goal.

Rachel Rees is a Solicitor Consultant in personal injury here at Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about spinal cord injury, or indeed any other aspect of this article and wish to speak to Rachel or any other member of the team, please contact us on 0800 027 2557 or contact Rachel directly.