Paralysis Treatment: Electrical Implants a Huge Step, Doctors Say
Electrical implants for a patient suffering from paralysis allowed the patient to stand on his own and walk on a treadmill unassisted, according to researchers. The implants, placed in the patient’s spinal cord, mimic the signals the brain would normally transmit to move the body.
The patient, 25-year-old Oregon resident Rob Summers, received continual epidermal stimulation to the lower spinal cord, enabling the muscle and joint movements that are required to stand and walk.
According to CNN, Dr. V. Reggie Edgerton, professor in the Departments of Integrative Biology and Physiology and of Neurobiology at UCLA, said, "This stimulation causes changes in the brain and changes in the spinal cord. Now we need to know how this has occurred."
A similar procedure is already in use in many hospitals in the U.S. The procedure, known as functional electronic stimulation (FES), places electrodes on the skin above the muscles to help spinal cord injury patients move their limbs and walk [with assistance].
With electrical implants, however, the electrodes are implanted into the patient’s body, giving the spinal cord full control over the muscles.
In the article published by CNN, Edgerton concludes, "This does not represent a cure for spinal cord injury, but it's something to build on."