Engineering scientists led by Professor Andreas Demosthenous and Professor Nick Donaldson from University College London have designed and developed a microchip muscle stimulator microchip implant which when put into the spinal canal of a paraplegic person helps the person move his paralyzed legs.

This device, called the Active Book, developed for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) project is expected to revolutionize the quality of life for a paraplegic person. At the current level of development the microchip helps the person move his or her leg muscles and walk around. The researchers are now studying ways to use the same device to stimulate more muscle groups so that the paralyzed person can do more activities.

In earlier experiments, electric current was used to help a patient but in that device the electrodes were attached outside of the legs which were connected to an external stimulator. This was too cumbersome for the patients and very few could use this effectively. But the new design has made it possible for the scientists to develop the implant the size of a child's fingernail – both the electrodes and muscle stimulator are in one unit.

Now the researchers are looking for ways to implant a number of these into the spinal canal to make multiple activities possible for the person. This will allow stimulation of more muscle groups which means users can do even complicated tasks like cycling or rowing. They can also be used for controlling other bodily functions like incontinence, bowel capacity and suppress spasms.

By next year Active Book devices will be made available for clinical trial.