An implant that stimulates a specific group of spinal neurons can treat dangerously low blood pressure in people with spinal cord injuries, addressing an often “invisible” side effect of paralysis.

Jordan W. Squair has won the 2023 BioInnovation Institute & Science Prize for Innovation for his work in developing this treatment, known as the neuroprosthetic baroreflex. The prize is intended to recognize scientists who conduct research at the intersection of life sciences and entrepreneurship.

“Dr. Squair’s award-winning research on epidural electrical stimulation restores blood pressure control in patients with spinal cord injury,” said Science senior editor Yevgeniya Nusinovich. “Using this technology to maintain normal blood pressure reduces patients’ risk of fainting and other complications, greatly improving their safety.”

According to Squair, a NeuroRestore researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), the treatment offers a novel approach to a problem that affects up to 90% of people with spinal cord injuries.

Squair wrote in his prize-winning essay in Science that a woman with severe motor and autonomic nervous system disease, who had such low blood pressure that she could not stand for more than a few minutes at a time, was able to walk several hundred meters immediately after receiving the implant and has stopped fainting.

“It’s been a really cool experience since then to see it work every single time in every single person that we’ve tested,” he said. “Seeing a functional neurosurgical procedure is exciting.”