A team of Johns Hopkins biomedical engineers and neurosurgeons has received $13.48 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop implantable ultrasound and other devices that could revolutionize care for people suffering from spinal cord injuries. The results could benefit thousands of U.S. service members and civilians who sustain spinal cord injuries every year.
The electronic device will be the size and flexibility of a small Band-Aid and will use high-resolution ultrasound technology, as well as miniaturized electrodes, to help doctors monitor and treat the changes in blood flow and prevent tissue death that occur immediately after a traumatic injury to the spinal cord.
With $6.3 million in DARPA funding, Intel, Brown and other partners will work on building the AI-driven hardware and software needed to treat spinal cord injuries.
When someone suffers a severe spinal injury, their brain’s electrical signals can get cut off from their muscles, leading to paralysis. It’s a devastating problem, especially since the human body cannot regenerate severed nerve fibers. But with the help of the right AI-driven technologies, medical professionals may eventually be able to help spinal injury victims regain muscle control and sensation.
Revolutionizing Prosthetics program achieves goal of restoring sensation
A 28-year-old who has been paralyzed for more than a decade as a result of a spinal cord injury has become the first person to be able to “feel” physical sensations through a prosthetic hand directly connected to his brain, and even identify which mechanical finger is being gently touched.
The advance, made possible by sophisticated neural technologies developed under DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics points to a future in which people living with paralyzed or missing limbs will not only be able to manipulate objects by sending signals from their brain to robotic devices, but also be able to sense precisely what those devices are touching.