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More BIG News for Spinal Cord Injuries

Photo credit goes to: University of Louisville. This photo shows the four participants in the study.

Photo credit goes to: University of Louisville. This photo shows the four participants in the study.

It seems like lately we have been reporting left and right about people suffering from paralysis, and for good reason! Today I’m happy to report even more new research that offers hope for people suffering from spinal cord injury.

In a new study published in Brain [a journal of neurology] researchers used adult patients who suffered different spinal cord injuries. Two had feeling in the extremities, but could not move them, while the other two had neither feeling nor could they move their extremities.

For seven months the patients in the study received stimulation of the spinal cord region with electrical signals [used to mimic the signals that normally would be sent and received]. The hope was to stimulate some sort of connection between the nerves.

Normally paralysis occurs when the nerves in the spinal cord are either injured or completely severed. The study, which comes from the University of Louisville, was designed to try to correct the problem with a minimally invasive approach. Originally they were skeptical that the experiment would actually work.

Surprisingly, the results were quickly forthcoming, soon the patients could voluntarily move their hips, ankles and toes.  The therapy results improved when they stimulated the spinal cord and during which, the limbs were manually moved while being suspended on a treadmill.

The speed of recovery suggests that there were some non-functioning connections between the damaged area in the spinal cord. The spinal stimulation then [theoretically] helped the brain overcome these limitations by sensitizing the  few connections, allowing control of the extremities using these remaining connections.

V. Reggie Edgerton, the person who pioneered this new approach, said in a press release “The fact that the brain is able to take advantage of the few connections that may be remaining, and then process this complicated visual, auditory, and perceptual information, is pretty amazing.”

Prior to this, even the new exciting research I had been reporting on was years away from just human trials, much less commercial medical use. Researchers are hopeful that this new approach may provide a new option for a people with a previously untreatable condition.

Also with the noninvasive and safe approach used, the trials were able to be done on people instead of animals. This means that with luck, if the research pans out, we could see this as a new treatment much sooner than other techniques being looked into.

So excited you want the full story? It’s okay, so was I! You can read the entire paper — here!

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