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New 'bionic spine' promises movement for paralyzed individuals

Imagine that you have lost the ability to move one or more of your appendages because of a serious injury. Unable to use that limb, you have had to find new ways of moving and interacting with your environment. For some, a disability like this would not interfere too much with their daily lives. For others, the circumstances may be different and altogether disabling.

But researchers in Australia believe they have found the answer in a new tech device, which is being dubbed the "bionic spine." Roughly the size of a paper clip, the bionic spine promises to return movement to paralyzed limbs simply through the use of thought. If upcoming human tests prove as successful as tests already conducted on sheep, then paralyzed individuals the world over could soon have a new option that will help them return to their normal lives.

As a recent Tech Times article explains, the device works by connecting signals sent from a patient's brain to the affected limb. It is then the job of a device implanted in the patient's limb to interpret those signals, which then translate into movement. The whole procedure only takes a few hours, explains Nicholas Opie, Ph.D., who is one of the biomedical engineers working on the bionic spine study.

Though the device is still in the testing phase, researchers are hopeful that a new wave of tests scheduled to start on humans soon will prove successful enough to warrant widespread approval. Once approved, patients with disabling injuries, like paralysis, will be able to return to more normal lives. Of course, aside from approval by federal agencies, receiving this device will also rely heavily on whether or not a patient can afford the procedure or not.

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