Skip to Content

An electric implant helps a paralyzed man walk the length of a football field

September 25, 2018

Two new reports suggest that electrically stimulating the spinal cords of accident victims can let them walk again.

New approach: Paralysis is caused when a person’s spinal cord gets injured or severed in an accident. Doctors are testing whether implanting electrical stimulators below the injury can restore people’s ability to take steps.

Long walk: Researchers at the Mayo Clinic say Jered Chinnock, paralyzed at the waist in 2013 while riding a snowmobile, has been able to walk 111 yards with assistance. Mayo reported the results in Nature Medicine and put out a video.

How it works: Nobody is entirely sure, although the electrical shocks must fill in for the missing nerve signals from the brain. Doctors at the University of Louisville reported on four other cases in the New England Journal of Medicine. Some of the patients have been able to go home and get around with a walker.

Next steps: In the future, spinal injury patients may receive brain implants that get connected to stimulators in their spines, restoring the brain-body connection and perhaps enabling fluid movements. This kind of brain-machine interface has already been tested successfully in monkeys.

Deep Dive


The first babies conceived with a sperm-injecting robot have been born

Meet the startups trying to engineer a desktop fertility machine.

Doctors have performed brain surgery on a fetus in one of the first operations of its kind

A baby girl who developed a life-threatening brain condition was successfully treated before she was born—and is now a healthy seven-week-old.

A brain implant changed her life. Then it was removed against her will.

Her case highlights why we need to enshrine neuro rights in law.

The FDA just approved rub-on gene therapy that helps “butterfly” children

Biotech companies are getting creative with how they deliver DNA fixes into people's bodies.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.