Although it’s been a known fact for quite a while that there are good yet expensive SCS operations that helped those paralyzed, now there’s a revolutionary breakthrough in the field of research. A new method of non-invasive spinal cord stimulation helps paralyzed people move.
It all started back in the 90s, when Cristopher Reeve, the man famous for playing Superman in four different Superman movies, three of which were major successes, met Dr. V. Reggie Edgerton, a physiologist during a science convention. But Reeve was not in his prime form. He had just injured himself in a horse ride, and was left paralyzed.
Reeve employed Edgerton to work for the development of new ways of improving the life of people with physical disabilities. But even before that, Edgerton had been working in this particular area for a long time. Now, the doctor has accumulated close to 40 years trying to figure out the real connections between the brain, the spinal cord, and the limbs, so as to help paraplegics everywhere.
Now, he may have just uncovered something revolutionary.
During a four weeks trial period, he and a UCLA team managed to restore mobility to five people who had been paralyzed in the lower part of their bodies for years.
What they did was devise a completely new and relatively affordable type of spinal cord stimulation. As you may know, spinal cord stimulation implies the implanting via surgery of a stimulator near the spinal cord, usually at the lumbar region. This stimulator sends electrical impulses to the cord, enhancing receptivity.
The new strategy is called transcutaneous stimulation and involves the placing of electrodes at specific places outside the body. Naturally this procedure drastically lowers all the risks, as it eliminates all the probable mishaps of surgery, and also the costs of such invasive procedures.
After the first four weeks of promising results, Edgerton extended the test period to eighteen weeks, during which he treated the men in 45 minute daily sessions. The biggest breakthrough was that when the experiments were done, the five men were still able to move their legs, albeit the mobility slowly decreased back to the paralyzed state.
The men also represented different age groups, from 19 years to 56. The test proved that the technique worked no matter the age of the patient. The previous treatment available managed to restore mobility to four people. But the biggest issue with it was the $100,000 price. This newest method is said that it will cost one tenth of that.
The final goal for Edgerton is to further develop this method as to achieve maximum efficiency, as well as making it available on a world-wide range, so that people could just buy it and exercise in their homes.
Image source: massdevice.com