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February 17, 2016

Implantable pulse generators help turn paralyzed patients into bionic athletes.



Bionic athletes. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

For someone paralyzed from the waist down, pedaling a bike is a real thrill, according to biomedical engineer Ronald Triolo, director of the Advanced Platform Technology Center in Cleveland. He and his colleagues are developing an electric pulse generator that’s implanted into a patient’s abdomen, and sends precisely timed electrical signals to nerves in the hip and leg muscles, creating a pedaling motion. Triolo says the work is challenging his team, and inspiring his patients.

RONALD TRIOLO (Advanced Platform Technology Center, Cleveland VA Medical Center and Case Western Reserve Univ.):

Put somebody on a bike and put them outside and there’s a sense of liberation and just freedom that you don’t get from the more mundane activities of your daily life.


The team’s preparing for the Cybathlon, a kind of bionic Olympics being held in Zurich in October. Triolo discussed the work at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

To learn more about this and other work at the Advanced Platform Technology Center, visit the APTC website.

To learn more about Cybathlon 2016, check out this event video trailer.