CBS 60 Minutes featured research by CWRU biomedical engineers Dustin Tyler, Bolu Ajiboye to restore sense of touch for amputees and people with paralysis
On March 26, the CBS News program 60 Minutes featured groundbreaking work led by Case Western Reserve University researchers Dustin Tyler and A. Bolu Ajiboye—biomedical engineering pioneers who are bringing a renewed sense of touch to amputees and people with paralysis, using neuroprosthetics.
“It was exciting to be able to show the CBS 60 Minutes team what we are accomplishing in Cleveland to further this research,” said Tyler, the Kent H. Smith II Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Case School of Engineering and director of CWRU’s Human Fusions Institute. “We believe this region is already a leader in using technology to actually make us more human, to help research become reality for people.”
In January, CBS film crews, producers and reporter Scott Pelley conducted interviews and observed ongoing research at the university and Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), where teams that Tyler and Ajiboye lead work in partnership with Case Western Reserve.
Partnerships and people
The news teams also interviewed Brandon Prestwood, a North Carolina worker who lost part of his arm in an industrial accident in 2012, who has been helped by Tyler’s team; and Austin Beggin of Lima, Ohio, who was paralyzed from a diving accident in Florida in 2015, but has continually regained feeling after brain surgery and working with Ajiboye’s team.
The VA is also home to the Advanced Platform Technology (APT) Center, led by Executive Director Ron Triolo, a CWRU professor of biomedical engineering, and the Cleveland Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) Center.
The Cleveland FES, a consortium of CWRU, the VA, MetroHealth Medical Center, University Hospitals of Cleveland and Cleveland Clinic Neurological Institute, is led by Executive Director Robert Kirsch, chair of the university’s biomedical engineering department.
“The partnerships that we enjoy here are a big part of amplifying our collective work,” said Ajiboye, the Elmer Lincoln Lindseth Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and a bioengineer at the Cleveland FES. “We’re all part of a wider ecosystem focused on a collective goal to restore lost function to people with sensory and movement impairments.”
Jonathan Miller, professor of neurological surgery at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and director of the Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery Center at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, is also on that team, performing the neural implant surgeries.
Research teams work on neural connections
Tyler is also on staff at the APT Center, where he works with upper-limb amputees. In early 2022, he was with a group of scientists who met with President Biden to discuss their work. His research has also been featured in National Geographic.
Tyler and his team have brought the sense of physical touch to a prosthesis, allowing an amputee to safely pick up his granddaughter and slice a tomato—fundamentally changing the prosthesis from a sporadically used tool to a working “hand.”
Ajiboye focuses on the development and control of brain-computer-interface, neuroprosthetic technologies to restore function to the nervous system after someone has suffered a spinal cord injury or stroke.
His work was featured prominently in the 2019 documentary I AM HUMAN; he is considered an international expert on brain implants to restore function after paralysis.
Also involved in the demonstrations for the 60 Minutes news crews were Emily Graczyk, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, research nurse Melissa Schmitt in bioengineering and collaborators from University Hospitals.
* While the network plans to air the segment at 7 p.m., its start may be delayed by live events. While much less likely, major breaking news could also postpone or pre-empt the show.
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