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Electrical stimulation may be a cure for paraplegia

A new electrical stimulation method has demonstrated 100 percent effectiveness in reducing the effects of paraplegia and restoring muscle and limb function regardless of the duration of the paraplegia or the lack of extant spinal nerve connections according to research reported by Dr. Claudia Angeli, assistant professor at the University of Louisville's Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, and colleagues in the April 8, 2014, edition of the journal Brain.

Credit: Photo courtesy of the University of Louisville Usage Restrictions: None
Credit: Photo courtesy of the University of Louisville Usage Restrictions: NoneKent Stephenson, the second person to undergo epidural stimulation of the spinal cord, voluntarily raises his leg while stimulated at the Human Locomotion Research Center laboratory.

The near miraculous results were the combination of electrical stimulation of the spinal cord and repetitive physical rehabilitation. All four volunteers involved in the research were able to regain voluntary control of their lower extremities during the electrical stimulation of the spinal cord and without electrical stimulation. The results included the capacity to stand for a period of four minutes without assistance.

The results produced by the spinal implant that stimulates the supposedly severed spinal cord in all four participants produced results in as little as a week. Over time the electrical stimulation can be reduced and the once paraplegic person could perform more functions voluntarily.

The research has produced an as yet unknown method of activation of nerves in a person’s extremities when the spinal cord has been severed by an accident. The researchers are developing a noninvasive electrical stimulation device as well as planning testing of the discovery on a large cohort of paraplegic people.