Technology that has allowed paralysed monkeys to walk again for the first time, could be used on humans within a decade.
Dr Gregoire Courtine, one of the researchers, said: “This is the first time that a neurotechnology has restored locomotion in primates.”
The two Rhesus macaques previously had no function in their lower limbs, but within six days of the chip being embedded in their brain, were able to walk on a treadmill.
Displaying “nearly normal locomotion” (although the ability to steer hasn’t been tested yet) the results are promising for humans suffering with paralysis.
The pill-sized implant works by transmitting signals out of the brain that are read as electronic activity by a computer.
This computer then deciphers those messages and sends instructions to a chip in the lumbar spinal, below the site of the injury, which stimulates the leg muscles to move spontaneously.
Spinal cord injuries causes paralysis by blocking the signal from the brain to the rest of the body, but this technology, which works in real time, negates the need for this.
Although there is great promise for this technology to be adapted to people, the team stressed there is a great deal of testing left to be done before there can be clinical trials.