Reports from two new clinical trials have been released in Nature Medicine and the New England Journal of Medicine. They support previous research results that indicate that epidural spinal stimulation can help patients with lower limb paralysis regain some voluntary movement. Currently, researchers are using an off-the-shelf stimulation device that was developed for use with patients who suffer from chronic pain. The University of Louisville team found that all four patients tested were able to regain some voluntary movement, and two were able to achieve over-the-ground walking (not just on a treadmill.) The Mayo Clinic team tested only one patient but was able to replicate the results found at the University of Louisville: he was able to achieve over-the-ground walking with a front-wheeled walker after 43 weeks (9.8 months) of rehabilitation and training.
This work follows up on research previously funded by NIBIB, published in
NIBIB press release: https://www.nibib.nih.gov/news-events/newsroom/spinal-stimulation-helps-four-patients-paraplegia-regain-voluntary-movement
Michael Wolfson, Ph.D., Director of the NIBIB program in Rehabilitation Engineering and Implantable Medical Devices. Dr. Wolfson is available to discuss the unanswered scientific questions about the biological mechanisms behind this phenomenon, ongoing research directions, and the future plans to develop new technology in support of this therapy.
Gill, Megan L., et al. “Neuromodulation of Lumbosacral Spinal Networks Enables Independent Stepping after Complete Paraplegia.” Nature Medicine, 2018, doi:10.1038/s41591-018-0175-7. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-018-0175-7#Abs1
Angeli, Claudia A., et al. “Recovery of Over-Ground Walking after Chronic Motor Complete Spinal Cord Injury.” New England Journal of Medicine, 2018, doi:10.1056/nejmoa1803588.
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