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San Diego State Searches For Breakthrough In Paralysis

Researchers at San Diego State University have been awarded a multi-million dollar grant to find whether a computer chip can replace damaged nerves.

Sam Kassegne, deputy director of SDSU's Center for Sensorimotor Engineering, details the university's plan to create a chip to bridge damaged nerves.

Aired 10/27/15 on KPBS News.

Researchers at San Diego State University have been awarded a multi-million dollar grant to find whether a computer chip can replace damaged nerves.

Scientists are already able to patch small sections of spinal cord so the brain can once again start talking to a paralyzed limb. But success has been limited to small movements, like wiggling a toe, said Sam Kassegne, an engineering professor at San Diego State University.

“Because we can read signals from only a small part of the brain," Kassegne said. "With this new center, what we’re hoping to do is read signals from hundreds of thousands and millions of neuron cells and get the intent of the brain exactly, or as exact as we can.”

SDSU's Center for Sensorimotor Engineering is working on a chip that researchers hope can replace parts of a severed spinal cord or an area of the brain damaged by stroke.

Working with the University of Washington and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, San Diego will receive up to $20 million over the next five years to develop the chip. By the end of that time, they hope to be ready for human trials.

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