Published: Sat, November 03, 2018
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Trio of paraplegics walk again thanks to electrical stimulation

Trio of paraplegics walk again thanks to electrical stimulation

In a video published by the Swiss research institute École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, lead researcher Grégoire Courtine says that his team studied technology that "allows us to stimulate the spinal cord as the brain would naturally". David when was asked about this, he told that this treatment really meant a lot of him and he was surprised that how this really worked and what could have he done if he was not able to walk.

David M'zee, a 30-year-old Swiss man who was told by doctors he would never walk again after a sporting accident, is now able to walk around half a mile with the implant turned on. This could be due to the fact that the precisely targeted and timed bursts of electrical stimulation aided the patients' movement without getting in the way of sensory signals coming from their legs, the researchers theorised. The implanted device was developed to treat pain, but when combined with 5 months of intensive physical therapy, it restored movement years after a paralyzing injury, researchers reported yesterday in Nature. And so the researchers set about understanding how the nervous system responded to movements in every joint in healthy individuals, building up a "map" of what these activation patterns looked like. However, scientists warned that talking about the unambiguous success so far, because studies are at an early stage. The men who participated in the study had not been born paralyzed, but had suffered severe spinal injuries.

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. "I was like, should we enroll this participant?" With EES switched on, he's able to walk using a walker. He is also starting a new company called GTX Medical to continue helping patients after the study, and to promote the technology.

"It was a very emotional moment the first time they walked", he said.

All patients involved in the study recovered voluntary control of leg muscles that had been paralysed for many years, they said. But for now, the stimulators are only being used in a small number of patients in research settings.

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"It was the first time I've seen the recovery of voluntary movement without stimulation, which is true neurological recovery", Professor Courtine said.

For Courtine, Bloch, and their colleagues, the next step is to explore results in people with recent injuries, where "the potential for plasticity is elevated and the neuromuscular system has not yet undergone the atrophy that follows chronic paralysis", they write.

And essential, they add, is ensuring that the treatment translates outside of the hospital.

The advance offered by this study is a "real breakthrough" in terms of restoring mobility to some paralyzed patients, even though they likely won't achieve fully independent walking, Oxley said.

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