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Spine Stimulator – The Treatment that Will Enable Paraplegics to Walk Again

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) neuroscientist Reggie Edgerton believes that using electrical pulses to stimulate damaged spinal cords in human beings will enable paraplegics to walk again. A study he conducted on paralyzed rats proved to be successful. The study involved the implantation of electrodes in the animals, followed by a stimulation to their spinal cords; within four to eight weeks, the rats were not just able to stand, but were able to walk without assistance from Edgerton’s researchers.

Edgerton explains that the spinal cord transmits brain signals to the arms and legs for controlled movement. When damaged or injured, however, the line of communication between the brain and the limbs go dead and since nerve fibers do not usually grow again, the injury is becomes permanent.

In a study which Edgerton conducted in 1990, though, he saw how the spinal cord, when roused with electrical pulses, can awaken nerve fibers and send signals, which will control limbs and other body functions without dependence on the brain.

In 2009 the results of the study were applied to Rob Summers, a former college baseball player who was paralyzed from the waist down due to a hit-and-run accident. The procedure plus treadmill therapy gave Summers the capability to stand and take some steps (with assistance). His condition obviously kept improving as he also gradually experienced improvements in his bladder control, sexual function and blood pressure regulation. Besides these, Summers was also able to feel and move his hips, knees, ankles and toes.

A year ago, two other paraplegics underwent the same electrical stimulation on their lower spinal cord. Both were able to stand again for some brief moments – a sign that their condition is headed to improvement. It is believed that this spine stimulator will be the key to bringing back those confined in beds or on wheelchairs, due to spinal cord damage, to their former active life.