Credit: Rob Summers
The hope paraplegics can walk just got a litte more realistic.
ScienceDaily (May 20, 2011) — A team of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and the University of Louisville have used a stimulating electrode array to assist a paralyzed man to stand, step on a treadmill with assistance, and, over time, to regain voluntary movements of his limbs. The electrical signals provided by the array, the researchers have found, stimulate the spinal cord's own neural network so that it can use the sensory input derived from the legs to direct muscle and joint movements.
Rather than bypassing the man's nervous system to directly stimulate the leg muscles, this approach takes advantage of the inherent control circuitry in the lower spinal cord (below the level of the injury) to control standing and stepping motions.
The study is published May 19 in the British medical journal The Lancet.
More than 5.6 million Americans live with some form of paralysis; of these, 1.3 million have had spinal-cord injuries, often resulting in complete paralysis of the lower extremities, along with loss of bladder and bowel control, sexual response, and other autonomous functions.