The innovative machine -- a collaboration between researchers at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center and the Battelle Memorial Institute -- was able to reconnect Ian Burkhart's brain to his muscles, bypassing his unresponsive spinal cord.
Burkhart, a 23-year-old quadriplegic and native of Dublin, Ohio, is the first of of a potential five participants in a clinical study testing the effectiveness of the new Neurobridge.
"It's much like a heart bypass, but instead of bypassing blood, we're actually bypassing electrical signals," explained Chad Bouton, a research leader at Battelle. "We're taking those signals from the brain, going around the injury, and actually going directly to the muscles."
"Initially, it piqued my interested because I like science, and it's pretty interesting," Burkhart said of his decision to participate in the FDA-approved clinical trial.
Burkhart was paralyzed in a diving accident four years ago.
"I've realized, 'You know what? This is the way it is. You're going to have to make the best out of it,'" he said. "You can sit and complain about it, but that's not going to help you at all. So, you might as well work hard, do what you can and keep going on with life."
Dr. Ali Rezai and Dr. Jerry Mysiwto are two of the doctors who worked with Battelle in developing the Neurobridge. They will validate the success of the device as they continue to monitor the progress of Burkhart and others.
Neurobridge works with the help of a tiny computer chip that Dr. Rezai installed on the motor cortex of Burkhart's brain earlier this year. The surgery took three hours.
The computer chip reads brain signals and sends them to a computer that translates them into instructions for an electrode stimulation sleeve that then stimulates the proper muscles to enact the desired movement. The entire process, from thought to execution, happens within a tenth of a second.