Electrical stimulation, combined with physical therapy, may be the key to overcoming paralysis
The man’s steps aren’t graceful. His knees are jerky, and his toes often drag. But considering that his legs are paralyzed—and have been since a snowmobile accident four years ago—the fact that he can voluntarily put one foot in front of the other signifies a great stride in the effort to overcome paralysis.
This accomplishment, reported today in the journal Nature Medicine, is the product of high-tech engineering and human grit. The test subject first had an electric gadget implanted in his lower back to stimulate the nerves in his spinal cord. Then he started a rehab regimen, and kept showing up for 43 weeks. In each session, the researchers turned on the stimulator and helped him move his legs. As the weeks went on, he needed less and less help. Eventually he could take steps on his own, using only a walker to stabilize his body.
Finally, in one session toward the end of the study, he walked the length of a football field.