Spinal Cord Implant: 3 paralyzed patients started walking

There are certain things that are yet to be achieved in medical industry, some of them being labelled as the old and big dreams. One such dream certainly has edged very closers to the reality as three individuals who suffered from spinal cord injuries and were unable to move due to paralysis below the waist, for at least three to four years, have started walking again. It has become possible using an electrical pulse generator which is implanted in their spine and the crutches or its frames.

From the time scientists made it clear that the instructions from brains to limbs go in the form of electrical signals, travelling through the spinal cord, people were wondering if it was possible to bypass the damage by accidents and make individuals walk again. The idea was hard to implement and a number of labs were able to help the rats, who had their spines damaged, in walking once again.

Recently the Lausanne University Hospital has come up with the announcement that a similar achievement is made within humans as Dr. Jocelyne Bloch implanted three patients to activate leg muscles. With the help of body weights, the patients are able to walk within a single week. Considering that, Dr. Bloch feels that they are moving along the right path.

The technique is not about providing a path for the signals to travel from brains to leg muscles. There is a lot more to it. The simulation of target has to be as accurate as a swiss watch. Bloch and his fellows mapped various parts of spinal cord, marking out their responsibility of each movement that we make when walking or moving around. Then, they took the messages that came from brain, down to the damaged areas of spine, and used them to trigger certain signals to the muscles which would make them move.

There have been similar announcements in the past about moving the muscles and recovering from damaged spine with the help of electrical signals. However, the intensive therapy for movement was a crucial element in the process and individuals started falling backwards when the therapy was stopped. They were unable to hold on to the use of electrical simulation to move their bodies. However, with this study, two of the three participants were able to hold on to the gains that were made regarding the use of body weight to move muscles when they were left to continue on their own.

 

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