Spinal implant restores limited walking in humans with spinal cord injury.

December 11, 2018, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer

Pace makers for hearts have been common for a long time but now new research is pointing to the success of a ‘pacemaker’ for the spine. It is programmed to stimulate the muscles required to walk in the correct sequence and three patients with spinal cord injuries have had success in taking a few steps for the first time since they were injured. The results of the research “Targeted neurotechnology restores walking in humans with spinal cord injury” were published in the a recent issue of Nature.

The device is implanted in the spinal cord and it electrically stimulates the nerves connected to their leg muscles in the order required to walk. This helps to train the body to walk again.

Patients include a young man who broke his heck and became paraplegic in 2010. At the time he was informed he would never walk again. When this technology was offered to him, he went through a long and hard training period and can now take steps of his own.

The Study is being done through the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology with a multinational team including a Canadian researcher, Jordan Squair.  Mr. Squair says tat for each of the three patients the device is programmed with different patterns of stimulation. These patterns included walking quickly, walking slowly, and standing up.

Sixteen electrodes are surgically implanted onto the spinal cord with the goal of harnessing any residual control left behind after an injury. The patient’s muscles are then stimulated manually in every combination of muscles that may be used to walk in order to ensure the electrodes will stimulated the muscles and recruit them in the correct order for the walking to occur. The electrical pulses stimulated the circuits that are still intact in the spinal cord and over time the patients learn how to activate them on their own.

After many months of work the test subjects were able to voluntarily move the joints in their legs even without the electrical stimulation. Even with all of this work though, the ability to ‘walk’ is very limited. Most patients are still primarily confined to their wheelchairs with only a very limited ability to walk on their own.

The entire research paper is interesting, and you can read it here.

Posted under Accident Benefit News, Paraplegia

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