Paralysed man can walk again
A man who was hit by a car and paralysed from the chest down has been able to walk again for the first time since the hit and run accident that damaged his spinal cord.
Rob Summers, from Oregon in the US, has benefited from an electrical stimulation of the spinal cord in a revolutionary new treatment.
Doctors planted 16 electrodes into Summers’ spine and electrical pulses were sent to the spinal cord as he tried daily to stand and walk again.
Within just a few days of the treatment he was able to stand independently and he can now voluntarily move his hips, knees, ankles and toes and with support he can also walk on a treadmill.
After a spinal injury the nerve cells in the spinal tissue is damaged and they need help to respond to movement signals that are being sent from the brain and legs.
In this case, precise electric stimulation was needed. It mimics a message sent from the brain that the legs need to start moving and changes the ‘mood’ of the spinal cord so it becomes aware of the messages being sent to it and responds accordingly.
When this was coupled with some intensive rehabilitation training, Summers was able to stand and walk again.
Summers said in an interview that the treatment has “completely changed my life” and added: “For someone who for four years was unable to even move a toe, to have the freedom and ability to stand on my own is the most amazing feeling.”
Now that electrical stimulation has worked in one patient, four more are being lined up to test the treatment further.
However, experts are warning that in this early stage of research electrical stimulation of the spinal cord should not be construed as a cure for paralysis.
Professor Susan Harkema was part of the study at the University of Louisville and she said in an interview: “It is really critical to be clear that it's still in a research realm, but stay tuned we're going to learn a lot more every day.”