Paralysis need not mean paralysis for life
SOME might call it a miracle, but it relies on technology. At two separate clinics, three people paralysed from the waist down have walked again, thanks to an electrical stimulation implant, combined with intensive exercise and rehabilitation (see “Three people with paralysis can walk again with nerve-boosting implant”).
Yet it is true that prevailing medical wisdom says this should be impossible. Because these people’s injuries had ruptured the spinal cord, contact between the brain and the nerves operating the leg muscles was thought to be entirely severed. Controversially, the researchers who restored mobility believe that some weak connections survived. By tuning the electrical device, they say it was possible to reinforce those weak signals to the point where the leg muscles began to respond again to signals from the brain.
The resulting steps are halting and awkward. But they are steps, and with them comes hope that other people can benefit. Paralysis perhaps need not mean paralysis for life. If we can pin down the science, and work out how to identify similarly surviving spinal connections – a challenge in itself – we might help many more people with similar life-changing injuries.
This article appeared in print under the headline “First steps”
Retrieved from NewScientist on Sept. 28, 2018. "Paralysis need not mean paralysis for life"