Speaking to the Guardian, Gauthier said: “I practically could not walk any more without falling frequently, several times a day.
“In some situations, such as entering a lift, I’d trample on the spot, as though I was frozen there, you might say.”
According to the NHS, Parkinson’s disease ‘is a condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years’.
Some of the main symptoms include involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body, slow movement, plus stiff and inflexible muscles.
The disease can also bring on many physical and psychological symptoms, including depression and anxiety, balance problems, and loss of smell.
Gauthier’s condition is at an advanced stage after 20 years, to the point where his legs would freeze up and cause him to fall multiple times a day.
But thanks to this new implant, he suffers with no such symptoms anymore.
The implant doing the remarkable work is known as a neuroprosthetic device, essentially giving electrical stimulation to the spinal cord.
And in turn, medical professionals hope that this will activate dysfunctional neural circuits which affects how an individual walks.
For Gauthier, researchers went away from tradition and inserted the implant into his back – to a region known as the lumbosacral spinal cord.
After being tailored to how Gauthier walks, the implant can be switched on to deliver electrical stimulation to his spine.
This is done through movement sensors placed on Gauthier’s legs which can determine when he’s walking.
“Right now, I’m not even afraid of the stairs any more. Every Sunday I go to the lake, and I walk around 6 kilometres [3.7 miles]. It’s incredible.” he said.
Jocelyne Bloch, neurosurgeon and professor at the CHUV Lausanne University hospital, and one of those who worked on the project, added: “It is impressive to see how by electrically stimulating the spinal cord in a targeted manner, in the same way as we have done with paraplegic patients, we can correct walking disorders caused by Parkinson’s disease.”
However, the implant is still in it’s early stages – with a clinical trial being needed to see if the benefits can be successfully replicated in other patients.
According to Prof Grégoire Courtine, it will be ‘at least five years of development and testing’.