By: 6 November 2015
Paralysed men move legs with new non-invasive spinal cord stimulation

Paralysed men move legs with new non-invasive spinal cord stimulation

Five men with complete motor paralysis have been able to voluntarily generate step-like movements thanks to a new strategy that non-invasively delivers electrical stimulation to their spinal cords, according to a new study funded in part by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The strategy, called transcutaneous stimulation, delivers electrical current to the spinal cord by way of electrodes strategically placed on the skin of the lower back. This is the first time the spinal stimulation has been delivered non-invasively, previously it was delivered via an electrical stimulation device surgically implanted on the spinal cord.
In the study, the men’s movements occurred while their legs were suspended in braces that hung from the ceiling, allowing them to move freely without resistance from gravity. Movement in this environment is not comparable with walking; nevertheless, the results signal significant progress towards the eventual goal of developing a therapy for a wide range of individuals with spinal cord injury.
“These encouraging results provide continued evidence that spinal cord injury may no longer mean a life-long sentence of paralysis and support the need for more research,” said Roderic Pettigrew, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at NIH. “The potential to offer a life-changing therapy to patients without requiring surgery would be a major advance; it could greatly expand the number of individuals who might benefit from spinal stimulation. It’s a wonderful example of the power that comes from combining advances in basic biological research with technological innovation.”
The study was led by V. Reggie Edgerton, a distinguished professor of integrative biology and physiology at UCLA, and Yury Gerasimenko, director of the laboratory of movement physiology at Pavlov Institute and a researcher in UCLA’s Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology. They reported their results in the Journal of Neurotrauma.
Source: National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering