Medical

MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGH: Three Paralyzed Men Can Walk Again After Receiving Spinal Implant

MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGH: Three Paralyzed Men Can Walk Again After Receiving Spinal Implant

Mzee is one of three participants in a study that used a new technique to overcome spinal-cord injury and restore walking ability in patients with varying degrees of paralysis.

"Not so long ago, the hope that someone paralyzed for years by a severe spinal-cord injury would ever be able to walk again was just that - hope", the journal said in an editorial about the new research.

Stimulation of the spinal cord using implanted pulse generator has allowed three men to regain control of their leg muscles and walk again with some assistance. This then led to improved motor function, even when the electrical stimulation is turned off.

"Our findings are based on a deep understanding of the underlying mechanisms which we gained through years of research on animal models", stated Courtine.

It's the culmination of "more than a decade of careful research", Gregoire Courtine, a neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology who helped lead the research, told AFP. As we approached David, he looked her in the eye and said, 'I will walk before you.' After finally walking, David once again jokingly addressed Charlotte, "I have beaten you", as the BBC reported. "The exact timing and location of the electrical stimulation are crucial to a patient's ability to produce an intended movement. It is also this spatiotemporal coincidence that triggers the growth of new nerve connections", says Courtine.

A man with a spinal-cord injury leaving him wheelchair bound has been able to walk thanks to a revolutionary new spinal implant. "The targeted stimulation must be as precise as a Swiss watch".




Nerves in the spinal cord send signals from the brain to the legs. But that did not take long.

One positive sign about the study is that the electrical stimulation was not simply moving the muscles by itself, in the way that sending current through a dead body will make it twitch, but that it relied on the subjects attempting to move their limbs.

"If we can stimulate the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system at the same time, the additive effects could restart touch perception and movement in some people". The researchers developed a voice-activated system that allowed their patients to switch EES on and off themselves, and they calibrated it to different modes for walking, standing, or cycling on a hand-and-leg-powered tricycle.

Courtine's epidural electrical stimulation works in such cases. The team's next steps are to use their study findings to turn the tech into a treatment that is available at hospitals and clinics around the globe.

"We are building next-generation neurotechnology that will also be tested very early post-injury, when the potential for recovery is high and the neuromuscular system has not yet undergone the atrophy that follows chronic paralysis", said Courtine.

Going forward, Courtine said he hoped to see the technique combined with biological treatments involving nerve fix.


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