Since 2010, Riders4Riders has been entrusted with the Wings for Life Foundation to help research and financially support some of the projects it advocated.
In 2013 then, after evaluating several research projects in collaboration with the Wings for Life Foundation, R4R decided to fund the one of prof. Gregoire Courtine, who runs the Center for Neuroprosthesis at the Swiss Institute of Technology of Lausanne (EPFL), the most important Swiss research institute.
Dr. Courtine’s project deals with finding systems for restoring sensory and motor functions that have been interrupted due to a spinal injury. The aim is to create a neural transmitter, a chip implanted in the cerebral cortex that transmits the brain commands, via electrical impulses, to another chip planted in the spine.
This second chip will be directly connected to the spinal cord, upstream and downstream of the lesion, so the brain impulses will bypass physically the injured part, allowing to reach the limbs affected by paralysis and then voluntarily command them.
All this is allowed through advanced neuro-rehabilitation procedures, combining an electrostimulation system with a pharmacological therapy.
While this is not a true “cure” in the traditional sense of the word, it is currently the search that has the greatest chance of giving a concrete solution to paraplegia.
In the future, an even more important recovery could come from combining this approach with other therapies aimed at stimulating the regeneration of nerve fibers.
The development of this research line is also pursued in collaboration with a consortium of European laboratories that are part of the “Neuwalk” project, funded partly by the European Commission.
Dr. Courtine, contacted by us at the beginning of March 2017, informed us that the project has finally passed on human experimentation, for now only in Switzerland but in the near future will be tested in many large hospitals around the world. He also announced the beginning of the trial also in subjects with tetraplegia (ie a lesion that also affects upper limbs). As you can imagine, these injuries are clinically much more complicated than a paraplegia, so research, unfortunately, goes slower and is more difficult…
That is why your contribution is increasingly needed!
Riders4Riders fund this project through the interplay of Wings for Life, a world-renowned Austrian organization that finances and sponsors the most innovative research in the field of spinal cord injury.
More than 2.5 million people in the world are afflicted with spinal injuries
Only in Italy, there are over 100,000
About 80% of the ones with spinal cord injuries are less than 40 years old