Researchers and surgeons at Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, Northwell Health, have successfully implanted a microchip that was developed with artificial intelligence algorithms to re-link a paralysed man’s body and spinal cord, to help him move and feel again.
The patient, Keith Thomas, 45, has, thus, become the first human to have the microchip successfully implanted. The native of Massapequa, New York suffered a spine injury after a diving accident in July 2020 that left him paralysed from the chest down and unable to feel. In March 2023, he was implanted the microchip at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York, in a 15-hour-long surgery. He can now move his arm simply by thinking about it and can feel the touch of a hand for the first time in three years.
The breakthrough happened with an innovative “double neural bypass” procedure, wherein surgeons first implanted microchips in Thomas’ brain in the regions that control movement and touch sensation in the hand. The chip interfaces with AI algorithms that “re-link his brain to his body and spinal cord” interpreting Thomas’ thoughts and translating them into actions.
As the patient has more than doubled his arm strength within just four months of receiving the implants, researchers believe that repeated use of the bypass could promote lasting natural recovery over time. The brain, body and spinal cord may be able to relearn forgotten communication pathways.