Restoration of hand Functions in Tetraplegia through Selective Neural Electrical Stimulation

The AGILIS project aims to deliver an innovative implanted stimulation device to enable individuals with tetraplegia to use their hands for functional grasping, thereby increasing their autonomy.


Individuals with high tetraplegia are completely dependent on caregivers for more than eight hours a day. AGILIS was created to develop an innovative solution to increase their autonomy by enabling them to handle common daily activities, such as washing, eating or self catheterising.

The project is led by INRIA, a French Core Partner of EIT Health specialised in research, digital sciences, scientific excellence and technology transfer. INRIA is joined by other EIT Heath partners from France and Germany: hospitals group APHP and Heidelberg University, a renowned public research university in Europe. Neurinnov will develop the envisioned medical device. Hospital La Châtaigneraie will follow up with the patients after the implantation. AGILIS is developing a medical device to increase the autonomy of individuals with tetraplegia by helping to restore the fundamental use of their hands.

AGILIS proposes to use only two neural electrodes to pilot hand extension and flexion movements: multicontact cuff electrodes placed around nerves will activate different muscles depending on the contacts’ configuration and stimulation parameters. These neural electrodes will be implanted in five patients for 30 days, during which time:

  • The electrode configuration will be optimised for each patient and progression of performance will be assessed longitudinally.
  • An intuitive interface will be designed to allow the user to pilot the assistive device and increase technology embodiment. Different sensors will be tested (electromyography and Inertial Measurement Units among them).
  • Functional performance progress and perceived usefulness of the device will be evaluated.

The outcome anticipated from the work of the AGILIS project is to deliver optimisation results of the selectivity of electrodes and stimulation configurations after going through a clinical trial.


This project will benefit patients and the healthcare system, as the patient’s will gain greater independence while the cost of caring for them will decrease greatly. The AGILIS medical device represents a real advance in health innovation, because no solution exists to allow people with tetraplegia to use their hands. Furthermore, this generic technology could address other severe sensory-motor deficiencies in the future, as an envisioned market extension.

Why this is an EIT Health project

This project is in keeping with the core EIT Health goal of improving healthcare. The project is also aligned with the EIT Health Focus Area of “Care Pathways”, as it promises to improve the living conditions of patients suffering from tetraplegia.

Christine Azevedo Coste
| Research Dirtector | Inria