There are a couple of very important medical breakthroughs in spinal cord injuries which have been developing recently, which could give a lot of hope in the future to patients who have been paralyzed as a result of spinal cord injuries. One of them is a surgically implanted spinal cord device, and the other is related to experimental stem cell research.
Spinal Cord Device:
Rob Summers was struck by a car in 2006, and was told that he was paralyzed from the chest down and would never walk again. However, a new experimental treatment has only recently enabled him to be able to stand on his own two feet once more.
Summers, who is 25 years old, is the first patient in the world to undergo tests of a new treatment that combines intense rehabilitation with electrical stimulation to the spinal cord. A device has been surgically implanted in his spine which delivers electrical impulses to the neurons in his spine. This allows his spine to receive and respond to sensory information from his legs, even though it cannot receive input from his brain. The success of this breakthrough technology could give hope to millions of patients who are suffering from paralyzing spinal cord injuries all over the world.
The device is part of a research project which is currently being conducted at the University of Louisville in the USA. Before receiving the implant, Summers went through 26 months of intense motor training therapy, where specialized physical therapists helped him practice attempting to move his legs. He then had the device placed on his spinal cord. After it was implanted, he was able to stand on his own two feet by using his own leg muscles and holding on to a bar for balance. He is now able to stand up for four minutes at a time, and is starting to be able to take small steps on a treadmill while being helped by the researchers. Summers has also regained control of his own bowels, bladder and sexual functions.
Although Summers is not able to fully walk yet, the success that the experimental treatment has had so far has been groundbreaking, as it is the only such time in the world that a paraplegic patient has been able to stand in this way.
Stem Cell Research:
Another recent study has found that stem cells taken from the brain might be able to help restore movement to patients who are paralyzed. Researchers from the Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan have been transplanting neural stem cells from mice with serious spinal cord paralysis. They then used a drug which is commonly prescribed to treat epilepsy called valproic acid, and which caused the transplanted stem cells to multiply to create new nerve cells rather than brain cells. According to the reports, the results were an impressive restoration of hind limb function.
However, further work is needed on this particular treatment before it is determined whether or not the same approach will work on human patients.
Medical breakthroughs and advancement in medical science helps the human race to overcome traumatic situations and such breakthroughs will always keep us moving ahead to fight with deadly diseases and traumatic conditions in our endeavour to survive. Hope the recent medical breakthroughs in spinal cord injuries come as a boon for patients with spinal cord injuries.
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