Researchers at the University of Louisville’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center reported a breakthrough for paralyzed patients who are now able to stand.
What the breakthrough refers to is inserting electrical stimulators in the spines of the patients, directly affecting their nervous system and with exercise, be able to stand and possibly even begin to walk again soon.
Four men have been reported to be able to rise from their wheelchairs on their own, after having been paralyzed from the waist down. The outstanding results have been published in a study featuring online in the PLOS ONE journal and authored by Doctor Susan Harkema.
After having the spinal electrical stimulator surgically implanted, one of the four patients thus treated by Doctor Harkema, Dustin Shillcox, stated:
“I can stand up for more than half an hour. It’s awesome. It’s amazing. It’s a hopeful feeling”.
Dustin Shillcox was paralyzed in a car accident that took place five years ago. As the other three patients, Shillcox is hopeful that with time, he will learn to walk again, as he has already observed significant progression with the electrical stimulator implanted in his spine.
While initially he needed help standing after a five-year long inactivity period, Shillcox can now stand on his own. His knees are better at supporting and adapting his weight, as are his hips. Only one month after the surgical implant, effects were already visible. Two years laters, he is independent with standing, albeit needing a surface for support.
Inspired by the success in his own case, as well as in the case of the three other patients, Dustin Shillcox started his own foundation intended to share the glimmer of hope with others that are paralyzed.
Doctor Harkema’s study was greatly aided by the Christopher and Dave Reeve Foundation. The fundraising efforts of the foundation have translated in a total sum of 15 million dollars that will deliver the same surgically implanted spine electrical stimulator to more patients who are affected by paralysis.
The success of the research seems so far-reaching that 4,000 people are eager to become the next subjects for the experimental device.
Alongside being able to stand, the patients involved in the research have stated that the electrical stimulator also improved their mobility and their overall health. For the first time in years, they are able to move legs, lift them and while some have so far only been able to stand, two of the four can perform a few sit-ups.
Blood pressure, bladder control, bowel control are among the few health benefits reported in the study. Certainly, activity has much to do with it. That is why, according to Peter Wilderotter, the president of Christopher and Dave Reeve Foundation, the future is bright for patients with spinal cord injuries.
Photo Credits zimbio.com
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