A medical device returning the power of communication to paralysis patients

The research

The Stentrode is a world-first medical device that helps severely paralysed patients operate digital devices with their mind. It translates neural information from a blood vessel near the motor cortex in the brain into on-screen commands, like click and drag.

The people behind the research

Synchron was co-founded by University of Melbourne Professor and Synchron CTO, Professor Nick Opie, and Associate Professor and Synchron CEO, Tom Oxley, in collaboration with the University of Melbourne, the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.

Impacts and outcomes

More than 30 million people suffer from paralysis. Current treatments involve open brain surgery that presents multiple risks. Stentrode is a minimally invasive device with the potential to help people who are severely paralysed access digital devices that can enhance their daily life experience.

Pathway to growth

Synchron is the first company worldwide to develop a minimally invasive, fully implantable brain-computer interface (BCI) device. It’s also the first to receive US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to trial a permanent brain implant.

Synchron has raised $A200 million in capital which has allowed clinical trials to be conducted in Australia and the US.

To date, four devices have been implanted successfully in Australian patients with severe paralysis due to conditions like spinal cord injury, stroke, muscular dystrophy and motor neurone disease.

Within months, patients could use the Stentrode independently and  control digital devices via brain signals – they could text loved ones, use internet banking and shop online. Importantly, no serious adverse effects were reported after 12 months of use.

US trials began in July 2022 with the first patient receiving the implant in New York. The trials are a significant step forward on the journey to make Stentrode technology available to physicians.

Future potential

“Our technology is for the millions of people who have lost the ability to use their hands to control digital devices,” says University of Melbourne Professor, Biomedical Engineer and CTO and Founder of Synchron, Nicholas Opie. ”We’re excited to advance a scalable BCI solution to market – one that has the potential to transform so many lives.”