#6 - Bringing back walking to paraplegics - Jocelyne Bloch - .NeuroRestore

Impulse - Meeting Healthcare Pioneers

05-07-2022 • 45 mins

Bringing back mobility to those who lost it. This is the challenge that Jocelyne Bloch, neurosurgeon at the CHUV, together with the neuroscientist Grégoire Courtine from EPFL and their teams at .NeuroRestore and Onward set out to address. A decade after demonstrating that the technology developed by Prof. Courtine’s lab was able to bring back lower limb mobility to paraplegic rats, it has now been applied to humans in a research context through their joint work with phenomenal outcomes: most paraplegic patients implanted with the stimulation system they have developed were able to retrieve significant mobility of their lower limbs, enabling them to stand, walk and even climb stairs! Based on an electrode array coupled to a pulse generator (both fully implantable) remotely controlled, the system delivers selective stimulation of the spinal cord at the locations where the lower limb muscles are activated, in a sequence that replicates the mobility patterns that abled people demonstrate. Images of patients having experienced this technology, moving out of their wheelchair to stand and walk, have been seen throughout the world, and the hope that it brings for those concerned is immense, considering also the other applications that it could open for the rehabilitation of the upper limbs or for blood pressure regulation. In the latest episode from Impulse, we had the chance to sit down with Jocelyne and exchange with her on the infancy of this therapy, where she takes us through its working principle, the challenges that come along with bringing such a technology from the lab to the market, as well as on the life-changing benefits it may hold for patients in the future. With great humility, she also talks about how she manages to combine her clinical practice as a functional neurosurgeon, to leading a research group composed of over 80 collaborators, all of that while raising two children and with a husband at home! Timeline: 05:20 - Jocelyne’s background and what led her to functional neurosurgery 08:18 - Approach taken to enable paraplegic rats to walk again and moving towards human applications 14:55 - The first human implantation 17:20 - Towards autonomous mobility renewal 18:25 - The STIMO study focusing on mobility and upcoming trials 21:03 - Managing expectations of patients 23:20 - Making a viable therapy with a reasonable rehabilitation training phase 26:17 - Leveraging potential synergies with exoskeletons 27:23 - Current technological constraints 28:34 - Origins and purpose of .NeuroRestore, and the close collaboration with Onward 33:03 - Towards upper limbs and hands rehabilitation therapies 34:10 - Retrieving sensory feedback thanks to the current therapy 35:23 - Adding brain-computer interaction layers to the current therapy 37:56 - Staying on top of things when working as a neurosurgeon, leading a clinical research center, and a family life 39:41 - Evolving as a woman in the field of neurosurgery What we also talked about with Jocelyne: Grégoire Courtine Patrick Aebischer Jean-Guy Villemure Bogdan Draganski Baroreflex Neuroprosthetics Neuroplasticity EEG ECoG CHUV UNIL EPFL Medtronic Elon Musk We cited with Jocelyne some of the past episodes from the series: #3 – Augmenting the lives of paraplegics with exoskeletons – Tristan Vouga – Twiice #5 – Transforming diagnostics through spatial biology – Déborah Heintze – Lunaphore If you want to know more about .NeuroRestore, we invite you to consult their website. We also invite you to follow their activities on LinkedIn. If you are interested in learning more about the startup Onward, we invite you to check out their website as well as their LinkedIn page. You can contact Jocelyne by email: jocelyne.bloch@chuv.ch If you want to give me feedback on the episode, ask questions or suggest potential guests, feel free to do so through LinkedIn or by email: m.chaffard05@gmail.com.