During a recent study electrical stimulation of spinal cords by a wireless implant has helped three paralysed patients to walk again. All the patients who were included in the study recovered from paralysis and were able to do voluntary actions.
The study was published in the journals- Nature and Nature Neuroscience. For the study patients with chronic paraplegia were chosen, who were not able to control their paralysed leg muscles. The study was conducted for a few months during which the patients were trained thoroughly under electrical stimulation. The patients who were examined were paralysed for many years. After the completion of the study, the patients were able to control their paralysed leg muscles even in the absence of electrical stimulation.
Earlier two independent studies were conducted on the same, but they could not show any beneficial results. But this recent study was able to show neurological functions beyond the training sessions even when the electrical stimulation was turned off.
"Our findings are based on a deep understanding of the underlying mechanisms which we gained through years of research on animal models. We were thus able to mimic in real time how the brain naturally activates the spinal cord," said Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) neuroscientist Gregoire Courtine.
"All the patients could walk using body weight support within one week. I knew immediately that we were on the right path," said Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) neurosurgeon Jocelyne Bloch, who surgically placed the implants in the patients.
This process improved the neurological functions of the patients. At the end of the study, three patients were able to walk hands-free more than one kilometer with the help of targeted electrical stimulation and intelligent body weight support.
"The exact timing and location of the electrical stimulation are crucial to a patient's ability to produce an intended movement. It is also this spatiotemporal coincidence that triggers the growth of new nerve connections," added Courtine.