Spinal Implants Are Helping Paralyzed People Walk Again

Thursday, 01 November 2018 - 1:19PM
Science News
Medical Tech
Thursday, 01 November 2018 - 1:19PM
Spinal Implants Are Helping Paralyzed People Walk Again
< >
Screenshot: YouTube
Medical marvel or the plot of an underrated 2018 thriller? According to The New York Times and a report published in the journal Nature, an experimental treatment involving spinal implants has helped several paralyzed patients walk again through electrical stimulation.



In the film "Upgrade," a computer chip installed in actor Logan Marshall-Green's spine turns him into a nimble crime-fighting puppet at the mercy of an evil AI. The real life procedures are not nearly as extreme, but they have helped three patients get back on their feet through what it called patterned stimulation. Very basically, a pulse generator sends signals to paralyzed muscles to tell them to move, signals the muscles no longer get naturally. The men who participated in the study had not been born paralyzed, but had suffered severe spinal injuries. The process took some time as the patients went through rehabilitation to improve performance and get paralyzed muscles moving again, but after a while they were up and moving without assistance. "After a few months, participants regained voluntary control over previously paralysed muscles without stimulation and could walk or cycle in ecological settings during spatiotemporal stimulation," Fabien Wagner and his colleagues wrote in the study

"At first everything was new and, of course, exciting, but it took so much work to see any difference," said David Mzee, one of the men in the study interviewed by The New York Times. "I would go home after rehab, eat, then go straight to bed. Then it got easier to get the movement I wanted, and the biggest step for me was when I could move hands free, for the first time, on the treadmill. I wasn't able to do that for so many years; it was a really cool feeling."

Though impressive, the treatment is by no means a cure-all. The men who participated did have sensations in their legs before the trials and still live with wheelchairs and walkers today. "The exciting thing about these findings is that they hold out the promise that spinal cord injuries can be cured, to an extent that restores walking, and that many movements persist even when stimulation is turned off," a University of Washington brain scientist named Chet Moritz who was not involved with the study said.
Science
Technology
Science News
Medical Tech
No