A US man who lost the use of his legs following a spinal cord injury has walked a short distance after doctors rerouted his brain signals in a medical breakthrough.
Adam Fritz, 26, was left using a wheelchair following a motorbike accident five years ago.
But doctors at the University of California have managed to bypass his damaged nerves by transmitting signals from his brain to electrodes around his knees.
After extensive mental and physical training, and 19 unsuccessful attempts, Fritz was able to walk over three and a half meters.
He said taking those steps was “incredible” and urged others who find themselves in a similar situation to never give up hope.
Fritz told Sky News: “When you’re first injured, you’re sitting in hospital hoping you’ll walk again but when it actually happened, it was a dream come true.”
The technique did not involve controversial embryonic stem cell research.
Instead neurologist Dr An Do, who co-led the research, said: “What happens is that the computer system detects when the brain waves change from a state of not walking into a state of walking.”
“Even after years of paralysis the brain can still generate robust brain waves that can be harnessed to enable basic walking.
“We showed you can restore intuitive, brain-controlled walking after a complete spinal cord injury.”
Dr Zoran Nenadic, who was also involved in the research, said: “We’ve been able to, for the first time, allow a person to walk hands-free without pressing buttons.
“It’s a short distance, of course, but in terms of significance, it’s a very exciting step”.