Spinal electrical implants helps three paralyzed men walk

Stepped Up Spinal Cord Repair Helps Patients Walk Again

"This opens up new therapeutic possibilities for patients suffering from neurological trauma or disorders, particularly individuals who have become paralysed following spinal cord injury".

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.

According to an EPFL press release on Wednesday, the STIMO method (Stimulation Movement Overground) presents a novel approach to recovery from spinal cord injury that, unlike other similar studies on the subject, allows neurological function to continue even after the electrical stimulation is stopped. "We were thus able to mimic in real time how the brain naturally activates the spinal cord", said EPFL neuroscientist Gregoire Courtine.

"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 very rare to see a spinal cord that was this silent, ' says Grégoire Courtine, a neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, referring to an nearly undetectable level of electrical activity in Tobler's lower spine. Within a week, the men could stand up and walk using supports. "The exact timing and location of the electrical stimulation are crucial to a patient's ability to produce an intended movement".

"The targeted stimulation is key to trigger the growth of the new nerve connections, because when two neurons fire together, they established new connections", Professor Courtine said.

A man with a spinal-cord injury leaving him wheelchair bound has been able to walk thanks to a revolutionary new spinal implant. Bloch compared the targeted stimulation to the precision of a Swiss watch. But that did not take long. Within one week of starting the study, all the participants could walk using body weight support.

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"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". All three patients recovered some degree of walking ability, and their progress in physical-therapy sessions has translated to improved mobility in their daily lives, ArsTechnica reported.

Moreover, they exhibited no leg-muscle fatigue, and so there was no deterioration in stepping quality, researchers said.

Courtine and his team used the tablet to turn the pattern of stimulation on and off depending on where the participants' feet were in relation to the ground. As soon as the stimulation is turned off, the patients immediately return to their previous state of paralysis and are no longer able to activate leg movements. -B., Goff-Mignardot, C. G.

"This is absolutely a promising step for spinal cord injury research, but we might need to target it a bit differently for people with complete spinal cord injuries".

Formento, E., Minassian, K., Wagner, F., Mignardot, J.

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