Spinal Implant Success Helps Three Paralysed Men To Walk Again

Stepped Up Spinal Cord Repair Helps Patients Walk Again

With rehabilitation, the patients eventually regained voluntary leg movement even without EES, but whether that means the brain and spinal cord had restored neural links remains to be seen.

The implant boosts the signal activating muscles in the legs. This then led to improved motor function, even when the electrical stimulation is turned off. In a second paper also published today in Nature Neuroscience, Courtine's group found that the latter type of stimulation might disrupt a person's sense of where their legs are in relation to their body, or what's known as proprioception.

"Our findings are based on a deep understanding of the underlying mechanisms which we gained through years of research on animal models".

The research, by scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), the University of Lausanne (UNIL) and the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV), has been published in two studies in the journals Natureexternal link and Nature Neuroscienceexternal link. In ongoing tests of the system, the patients were able to adjust the length and speed of their strides and to walk on a treadmill for an hour-traveling the equivalent of up to one kilometer. As we approached David, he looked her in the eye and said, 'I will walk before you.' After finally walking, David once again jokingly addressed Charlotte, "I have beaten you", as the BBC reported.

Doctors are working to make the stimulation more comfortable for patients like Mzee so they can keep the device active all the time.

That timing and location is also what triggers the growth of new nerve connections according to the scientists.

Jocelyne Bloch said: "The targeted stimulation must be as precise as a Swiss watch". "Selected configurations of electrodes are activating specific regions of the spinal cord, mimicking the signals that the brain would deliver to produce walking". But that did not take long.

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All three study participants were able to walk with body-weight support after only one week spent calibrating the nerve stimulation to their individual brain patterns, Courtine said.

"If we can stimulate the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system at the same time, the additive effects could restart touch perception and movement in some people".

The new rehabilitation protocols based on this targeted neurotechnology lead to improved neurological function by allowing the participants to actively train natural overground walking capabilities in the lab for extensive periods of time, as opposed to passive training like exoskeleton-assisted stepping.

A breakthrough treatment involving electrical stimulation of the spine has enabled paralyzed patients to walk again, apparently reactivating nerve connections and providing hope for people even years after accidents.

Moreover, they exhibited no leg-muscle fatigue, and so there was no deterioration in stepping quality, researchers said.

Courtine's epidural electrical stimulation works in such cases. "Our goal is to develop a widely accessible treatment", Courtine said.

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