Parkinson’s implant restores man’s ability to walk

A man with advanced Parkinson’s disease has been helped to walk again with a special implant that stimulates nerves in his spine.

Marc Gauthier, 63, from Bordeaux, France, the first person to try out the device, says it has given him a second chance in life.

He can now walk for miles, when previously he was often housebound and had several falls a day.

The medical team treating him describe the advance in Nature Medicine journal.

Before the implant, navigating steps or going into a lift posed extra problems for Marc.

The treatment appears to have stopped the shuffling and “freezing” or sudden stopping Marc and many Parkinson’s patients struggle with – and now, when the device is switched on, his gait looks almost normal.

Marc can now walk for miles. He said: “Getting into an elevator… sounds simple. For me, before, it was impossible. “Now, I have no problem.

“I turn on the stimulation in the morning and I turn off in the evening. This allows me to walk better and to stabilise. Right now, I’m not even afraid of the stairs anymore. Every Sunday, I go to the lake, and I walk around 6km [four miles]. It’s incredible.”

Marc feels “a little tingling sensation”, when the device is on, but is not bothered by it.

How it works

The stimulator sits on the lumbar region of the spinal cord, which sends messages to the leg muscles. Marc is still in control – his brain gives the instructions – but the epidural implant adds electrical signals for a smoother end result.

Scientists excited by AI tool that grades severity of rare cancer

Artificial intelligence is nearly twice as good at grading the aggressiveness of a rare form of cancer from scans as the current method, a study suggests. By recognising details invisible to the naked eye, AI was 82% accurate, compared with 44% for lab analysis.

Researchers from the Royal Marsden Hospital and Institute of Cancer Research say it could improve treatment and benefit thousands every year.  They are also excited by its potential for spotting other cancers early.

AI is already showing huge promise for diagnosing breast cancers and reducing treatment times. Computers can be fed huge amounts of information and trained to identify the patterns in it to make predictions, solve problems and even learn from their own mistakes.

“We’re incredibly excited by the potential of this state-of-the-art technology,” said Professor Christina Messiou, consultant radiologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and professor in imaging for personalised oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London.

“It could lead to patients having better outcomes, through faster diagnosis and more effectively personalised treatment.”

The researchers, writing in Lancet Oncology, used a technique called radiomics to identify signs, invisible to the naked eye, of retroperitoneal sarcoma – which develops in the connective tissue of the back of the abdomen – in scans of 170 patients.

With this data, the AI algorithm was able to grade the aggressiveness of 89 other European and US hospital patients’ tumours, from scans, much more accurately than biopsies, in which a small part of the cancerous tissue is analysed under a microscope.

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