A new study has been heralded as having “staggering” success and implications for the future treatment of paralysis. A group of researchers at the University of California Los Angeles and the University of Louisville were able to help restore voluntary movement to four individuals who had been told they would never be able to walk again.
The findings of this research were recently published in the journal Brain, by turning traditional thought about the spinal cord upside down.
This has the potential to completely alter life for the over 1 million Americans who no longer have control over lower limbs. Despite the fact that many of these paraplegics were told they would never again have function in their lower limbs, this research shows new potential for patients in similar situations.
The project experimented by sending electrical current through each of the four men’s spines. The researchers noted that they were able to “dial up” signals that go between the legs and brain, signals that were previously believed to be lost.
After going through this research project, all four men were able to lift their legs, support their own weight while standing, and flex their ankles, as long as the device embedded into their skin was turned on and functioning properly. In addition, all four individuals were able to regain sexual function, ability to regulate blood pressure and body temperature, and are now able to control bowels and the bladder. These patients had previously be unable to accomplish any of these things on their own.
Participants in the study noted that this kind of research was helping them get their life back.
One of the individuals involved in the experiment was paralyzed from the neck down after a motocross accident that happened in 2009. He says that the program helped him regain control of his life with a new pursuit for enjoyment. He says that the project had both physical and mental benefits, since he now feels confident about pursuing something in life. Another participant had no feeling at all under his midback injury and he had little hope that this latest procedure would be able to improve what he believed was a permanent injury.
All of the possible benefits of epidural stimulation are not quite apparent, but there is incredible possibility in the field, thanks to this landmark research. All of the men involved in the study had to relocate to Louisville in order to receive the treatment, and they stayed there for two years. For the duration of the program, all four individuals had to go through costly treatment, experiments, and rehabilitation. The outcome, however, gave physical ability as well as hope to all of the men who participated.
Study researchers remarked that the fact that all four men had noticeable improvements in conditions signaled significant potential for the process to work with others.
The team has already started recruiting a new group of four volunteers from their database of more than 2,000 individuals with paralysis. Previously scientists were unsure about how much of a signal had to reach from the brain down to the spinal cord to trigger the spinal cord taking control. As a result of this research, scientists are now aware that it may only take a very weak signal to help restore movement and possibility for individuals who were previously told they would never recover or walk again. The research has opened the door for future studies that will explore more about the spinal cord and helping to repair critical injuries.
To discuss a potential case involving a serious spinal cord injury, call Passen & Powell at 312-527-4500 for a free consultation.