The Defitech Foundation has teamed up with EPFL, CHUV and UNIL to widen access to the groundbreaking neurotechnology developed under the 2018 STIMO study, which allowed paraplegic patients to walk again. Their aim is also to develop new neurosurgical treatments for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease or from neurological disorders following a head injury or stroke.
NeuroRestore is a new Center set up by the Defitech Foundation, Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV), the University of Lausanne’s (UNIL) Faculty of Biology and Medicine (FMB), and EPFL to harness expertise in neurorehabilitation and neurosurgical implant technologies across the four partner institutions. Doctors, engineers and researchers will join forces to develop “electroceuticals” – a type of neurotherapy that uses electrical stimulation to help restore motor function in paraplegic and quadriplegic patients, as well as in people suffering from Parkinson’s or the after effects of a stroke. The NeuroRestore team will trial innovative, personalized treatments that, once proven, will be made available to hospitals and patients. The center will also train a new generation of health-care practitioners and engineers in the use of these breakthrough therapies.
On 1 November 2018, EPFL neuroscientist Grégoire Courtine and CHUV neurosurgeon Jocelyne Bloch published the findings of the STImulation Movement Overground (STIMO) study in the journal Nature. The research established a revolutionary new therapeutic framework to improve recovery from spinal cord injury, combining targeted electrical stimulation of the spinal cord (controlled by a pacemaker) and an intelligent bodyweight-support system. After undergoing the groundbreaking therapy, eight paraplegic patients were able to take a few steps unassisted.
The Defitech Foundation has partnered with EPFL, CHUV and UNIL to found NeuroRestore, a center that will build on the findings of the STIMO study and fast-track the development of these innovative therapies to make them widely available as soon as possible. Potential patients can register their interest by completing an online form at www.neurorestore.swiss.
The NeuroRestore team will be spread across several sites: CHUV in Lausanne, CRR SuvaCare (a Sion-based rehabilitation clinic and one of the project’s financial partners), and EPFL’s Campus Biotech in Geneva. The researchers, based at CHUV and EPFL, will also work with the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering in Geneva. Patients will undergo surgery at CHUV, while the rehabilitation sessions will take place at either CHUV or CRR SuvaCare. Jocelyne Bloch and Grégoire Courtine will serve as the center’s co-directors.
NeuroRestore’s founding members have entered into a five-year agreement. The next clinical study, STIMO-2, will use the technologies developed as part of the original STIMO study – which addressed patients with chronic injuries (dating back three years or more) – to treat up to 20 paraplegic patients with recent spinal cord damage. It will be a multicenter trial in Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands.