Precise electrical stimulation helps to treat paralysis in three patients
Precise electrical stimulation helps to treat paralysis in three patients
Three paralyzed men have walked again after receiving electric jolts to the spine
03 November, 2018, 07:10
Last Updated: October 31, 2018.
"We have sufficient evidence to use these treatments in the early stage after spinal cord injury, when the potential for growth of new nerve connections is higher, and the neuromuscular system has not yet undergone the atrophy".
"If you think about cutting the head off a chicken, it can still walk around".
"It was a very emotional moment the first time they walked", he said. He said that her daughter started walking when she was about 14 months old and at that time David was walking besides the Geneva Lake.
The two previous studies appeared in Nature Medicine and The New England Journal of Medicine.
After rehabilitation, the patients could either walk with support or a walker and they were reported to have gained voluntary leg movements without the help of the EES treatment afterwards.
"This little device that is an impulse generator is giving impulses to the electrode that is located on the spinal cord", Dr. Jocelyne Bloch, a neurosurgeon at Lausanne University, said. "The targeted stimulation must be as precise as a Swiss watch". The team's cocktail ofneuronactivating chemicals and electrical stimulation might be a precursor to future treatments for disabled humans, researchers say.
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"When you close your eyes, you know where your leg is, without having to look at it", Oxley said. The men who participated in the study had not been born paralyzed, but had suffered severe spinal injuries. "They need to be mentally active all the time in order to close the loop with the electrical stimulation that ultimately produces the muscle activity".
All patients involved in the STIMO (STImulation Movement Overground) study recovered voluntary control of leg muscles that had been paralysed for many years.
By the end of the study, the paralysed study participants could walk, with the help of bodyweight support, for over a kilometre on a treadmill thanks to the electrical spinal cord stimulation.
"They figured out how to deliver these pulses of stimulation into the spinal cord at the right pace, at the right beat, that would not disrupt that proprioceptive sensory system", Oxley said. This then led to improved motor function, even when the electrical stimulation is turned off. The electrodes connected to a small device surgically placed in the abdomen that generates the electrical pulses.
But none of the researchers would say that a full cure for paralysis is on its way, based on this research.
Going forward, Courtine said he hoped to see the technique combined with biological treatments involving nerve fix. "They might not walk around, but they will feel better and will have a lot of health benefits associated with this mobilization of their body". 'And [Tobler] needs a walker.' Courtine built a mobile app that allows the patients to turn their stimulators on or off remotely, so they could train at home after the study ended. "This is the first possible treatment that can potentially change the course of rehabilitation outcome in terms of walking". The results, published in Nature and Nature Neuroscience, are dramatic.
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