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Four patients with a complete spinal cord injury walked after a treatment based on an electronic device implanted in their spinal cord and intense training. They were the subject of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, see the Abstract (September 27, 2018) which concluded that the surprising results were not only positive but could change the thinking of experts on how the spinal cord works .
“This new treatment would imply a change in the way that experts think about the role that the spinal cord plays in the ability to walk given that the referred patients had not recovered the affected connections in the spinal cord that could explain the result.” comments a relevant neurologist.
One of the patients was Kelly Thomas (23), who woke up in a Florida hospital four years ago without remembering the car accident that had robbed her of the ability to walk. Thomas, an active college student who had run in barrels at rodeos, moved to Kentucky for a year to test a research study he hoped would re-train his spinal cord on how to walk, two other recent cases appear to confirm the efficiency of a localized electrical stimulus to recover the motor skills of a complete spinal cord injury.
The conclusion of the study states: “The current study showed that recovery of walking, standing and trunk mobility can occur in special circumstances with intensive training and electrical stimulation years after a chronic spinal cord injury that caused complete paralysis of the leg, sensation below the level of the injury may be a more suitable candidate than those without sensitivity, but this, and the durability of the walk on the floor, requires investigation in larger groups of patients with spinal cord injury. ”
It is great news for thousands of patients with serious injuries in the spinal cord that for the first time opens a hopeful path of improvement – the possibility of walking – until now non-existent.