Spinal cord breakthrough permits man to stand

23 May 2011

Posted by Jayne Kavanagh

A new medical device innovation that stimulates the spinal cord has been credited with permitting a man who had been paralyzed to use his legs.

The breakthrough by scientists in the US has been trialled with Rob Summers, who had been unable to move his body from the chest down after he was hit by a car.

A series of electrodes have been implanted down his spine in order to send electrical pulses to his legs and he is now able to stand and bear his own weight for brief periods, as well as moving parts of his body on command and making stepping motions on a treadmill.

Writing in the Lancet, the research team explained that this form of stimulation could offer hope to other people with paralysis in the future.

Specialists from the University of Louisville, UCLA and the California Institute of Technology worked together on the project and Dr Susan Harkema, Lead Author of the article, said: "This is a breakthrough. It opens up a huge opportunity to improve the daily functioning of (people with spinal cord injuries). But we have a long road ahead."

Meanwhile, trials will take place later this year of plastic stents created by US-based REVA Medical on heart patients in Australia.

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