Merger of Tech and Medicine Helps People with Paralysis

When Ian Burkhart was 24 years old, he was like a lot of twenty-somethings who enjoy having a good time with friends, hanging out, and looking forward to the future ahead.

And then he took a day trip to go swimming and everything changed. He dove into a wave, not realizing it wasn't the typical wave he was used to seeing roll towards the shoreline. It was a shallow wave. He dove in headfirst, hit his head hard, and severely damaged his spinal cord. The injury caused him to lose the ability to use his legs and forearms.

He survived and learned to adjust to his new reality. But that's not the end of his story. With the merger of technology and medicine, Burkhart can now move his hand, wrist and fingers, and perform simple tasks.

Here's how it works. Burkhart was fitted with a brain implant that communicates with a computer. The computer receives a message from the brain, then transmits the information to an electronic sleeve on Burkhart's arm. The electronic sleeve then stimulates the muscles, filling the gap caused by his injury, and engages the muscles to do things like pouring water into a glass.

For Burkhart and others with spinal cord injuries, this meeting of technology and medicine may be life changing. He was able to move his wrist, hand, and fingers for the first time since his accident the very first day he used this device.

In addition to helping people deal with paralysis, researchers believe the technology may also be used to help people recover from a stroke or serious brain injury. See the video here.