Noninvasive Spinal Cord Stimulation Enables Paralyzed Men to Move Again
Abstract： Paralyzed patients could be treated to regain movement ability without surgery? It sounds like science fiction, but a research group from UCLA made it possible in real world. With attached electrodes on the back, four paralyzed men was able to move legs again.
A new noninvasive treatment method has given paralyzed men new hope to move without any invasive treatments such as surgery. This method was claimed to be not causing discomfort to the patients. The research group in University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) demonstrated that noninvasive spinal cord stimulations and drugs can help completely paralyzed men regain the ability of simple movements. Their research has been published in the Journal of Neurotrauma.
In the research， transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) was utilized by carefully placing electrodes on the back of patients to deliver electric impulses to stimulate nerves. Furthermore, this stimulation seems to help the body “remember” its former nerve connection for movements.
In the study, four completely paralyzed men from the waist down underwent 45min training per week for a total of 18 weeks. At the beginning, the patients could only have involuntary move of the legs with stimulations strong enough. During the training, the patients were told to attempt to move their legs while receiving stimulations. Also, a drug named buspirone was given to the patients at the final 4 weeks. This drug was reported to induce local motion in mice with damaged spinal cord. After the training and drug treatment, the patients could move their legs voluntarily without any stimulation at all, although buspirone was still needed.
Considering that nearly 1.3 million Americans have paralysis with spinal cord injuries, this noninvasive treatment is promising to relive the surgery pain and complications with much lower cost. Further study by the same group has started, hoping to enable patients to bear their weight fully with the spinal cord stimulation treatment.