by Lauran Neergaard
Three people whose legs were paralyzed for years can stand and take steps again thanks to an electrical implant that zaps the injured spinal cord — along with months of intense rehab, researchers reported Monday. The milestone, reported by two teams of scientists working separately, isn’t a cure. The patients walk only with assistance — holding onto a rolling walker or with other help to keep their balance. Switch off the spinal stimulator and they no longer can voluntarily move their legs. But during one physical therapy session at the Mayo Clinic, 29-year-old Jered Chinnock moved back and forth enough to cover about the length of a football field…“This study gives hope to people who are faced with paralysis that functional control may be possible,” said Dr. Kendall Lee, a Mayo neurosurgeon who treated Chinnock and co-authored the Nature Medicine report.
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HealthDay, Three Paralyzed Patients Now Walk, Thanks to Breakthrough Technology by Dennis Thompson — …Implanted electrodes that provide direct electrical stimulation to the spinal cord have been shown to allow movement of previously paralyzed legs. For example, last month the Mayo Clinic reported on the case of a 29-year-old paraplegic who now can walk about the length of a football field with assistance. The new study takes the medicine and technology of spinal stimulation even further in two ways. First, patients were implanted with an array of electrodes down the spinal cord, which allowed researchers to target individual muscle groups in the legs. Additional coverage: IEEE Spectrum, Scientific American
National Geographic, New spinal cord therapy helps paralyzed patients walk again by Emily Mullin — Three men who were paralyzed from the waist down are able to walk again with a new type of therapy that uses electrical stimulation, scientists announced today. More than four years prior, the men had all suffered major spinal cord injuries that left them with limited or no movement in their legs…The results, published in the journal Nature, come on the heels of two reports last month of similar therapies that were able to help people with major spinal cord injuries walk for the first time in years. A team at the University of Louisville reported in September that stimulating the spinal cord—known as neurostimulation—allowed two people to stand independently and walk with assistive devices, like a walker. In a separate study published the same day, researchers at the Mayo Clinic showed that they had achieved similar results in another person. Additional coverage: Digital Trends, The Verge,The Southern Illinoisan
CNN, Paralyzed man walks again thanks to spinal implant by James Griffiths and Wayne Drash — A man with a spinal-cord injury leaving him wheelchair bound has been able to walk thanks to a revolutionary new spinal implant. Two other men involved in the study were also able to regain control of their leg muscles after they were implanted with electrical stimulators that could help compensate for the damage to their spinal cords, according to new research published in the journal Nature…Another study also published in September in the journal Nature Medicine unveiled similar results. A man paralyzed since 2013 regained his ability to stand and walk with assistance due to spinal cord stimulation and physical therapy, according to research done in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic and the University of California, Los Angeles. "What this is teaching us is that those networks of neurons below a spinal cord injury still can function after paralysis," Dr. Kendall Lee, the co-principal investigator and director of Mayo Clinic's Neural Engineering Laboratories, said in a press release when the study was released.
Context: Spinal cord stimulation and physical therapy have helped a man paralyzed since 2013 regain his ability to stand and walk with assistance. The results, achieved in a research collaboration between Mayo Clinic and UCLA, are reported in Nature Medicine. With an implanted stimulator turned on, the man, Jered Chinnock, was able to step with a front-wheeled walker while trainers provided occasional assistance. You can learn more about the research on Mayo Clinic News Network.