When it comes to kicking off the new year with some new habits, many people take the “gradual” approach. Diets start with one or two little changes at a time, exercise starts with a single workout and builds up to three or four. But medical science hit the ground running in 2019 and roared into the new year with the first of many exciting medical discoveries… a potential cure for partial facial paralysis.
Whether caused by palsy, a stroke, or one of many other possible maladies, facial paralysis is very difficult to live with. Not only is it debilitating, but the lack of muscle control takes a toll on self-confidence and morale as well.
Now, thanks to a breakthrough announced on January 1, 2019, there may soon be a cure.
A piece of surgically implanted equipment called “the bionic face” is showing incredible promise, by registering the electrical and muscular impulses on the healthy side of the face and transferring those commands to the paralyzed side of the face.
“Though the ultimate goal of reanimation is to restore dynamic motion of the entire facial musculature, restoration of three symmetric facial movements alone — brow elevation, blink, and smile — would dramatically improve outcomes,” writes lead researcher Dr. Nate Jowett in a press release.
It’s not the first time this technique has been explored… but it’s the first time that scientists have made it work without unwanted side effects. In earlier tests, transferring commands from one side of the face to the other may have successfully created movement, it also opened the door for a lot of unwanted movement—involuntary twitching and other similar issues.
To accomplish this, scientists added an alternating current to the bionic face—waves of high-frequency electricity that essentially cancel out any unwanted nerve signals.
As of right now, the successful experiments have only been done on lab rats, but researchers are optimistic. The partially paralyzed rats were able to blink both eyes simultaneously, and move whiskers on both sides of their faces when they could previously only move one.
It may be a while before you start seeing this technology in your hospitals (and in your patients), but the news is a giant leap towards a better life for those with partial paralysis.
This means the ability to blink both eyes again. The ability to raise both eyebrows at the same time to restore facial expressions. And the biggest win of all, the ability to smile a big natural smile whenever your patients wants.
This breakthrough could eventually mean a whole new life for those in your care, and it’s only the first month of the year. If the first weeks of 2019 are any indication, there are some wonderful things to look forward to in the healthcare industry this year.
And how incredible is it for nurses to have front row seats.
If you’re interested in beginning a career as a nurse or medical assistant, contact Provo College today!