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Non-Invasive Treatment Helps Paralysed Men Move Again


A new technique, which has been reported in the Journal of Neurotrauma, has helped five men who were totally paralysed from the waist down move their legs.

The non-invasive procedure  is thought to represent the first time patients have regained voluntary leg movement, without undergoing surgery.

Electrical stimulation therapy was utilised by scientists along with physical rehabilitation exercises, instead of invasive surgery.

These initial results could offer hope to millions of people with paralysis and allow scientists to look at spinal cord injuries “in a new way”, according to Senior author Prof. V. Reggie Edgerton.

Experts believe that spinal cord injuries may no longer affect someone for the rest of their life.

"The potential to offer a life-changing therapy to patients without requiring surgery would be a major advance; it could greatly expand the number of individuals who might benefit from spinal stimulation,” said Roderick Pettigrew, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

This recent study involved five men who were paralysed from the waist down for more than two years. They each underwent a specific training regime, which involved electrodes being placed on the skin on their lower backs.

At the beginning, the patients’ legs only moved when strong stimulation induced involuntary movements. However, by the end of the study, the patients could move their legs with buspirone – a drug which mimics the actions of serotonin – but without additional stimulation.

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The study has been described as “remarkable” due to the fact that experts had previously believed that paralysed individuals no longer had any neural connections in their spines.

"The fact that they regained voluntary control so quickly must mean that they had neural connections that were dormant, which we reawakened,” said Prof. Edgerton.