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European device gives hope to patients with spinal cord injuries

A spinal cord injury is a devastating event in a person's life. Some of these injuries are suffered in accidents on the job. Now paraplegics in Illinois and elsewhere are hopeful that a study in its infancy in Europe that is experimenting with new technology will help people with spinal cord injuries to walk again. Though currently in the experimental stage in laboratory tests on animals, the research looks promising.

An individual with injury to the spinal cord is faced with paralysis. Current medical technology does not provide treatment or cure for injuries to the spine, since the disorder does not allow electric impulses to travel from the brain to the muscles. Those injured on the job who are now paraplegic are destined to remain in wheelchairs facing lifelong care from others.

The European research takes micro-electrodes that are implanted into the spinal canal and allows them to send artificial stimuli to nerves activating muscular motion. So far, the team has only experimented on laboratory rats but has had astonishing results. A large majority of the small animals have recovered the ability to walk and climb stairs.

One scientist in Germany anticipates a modicum of success in transferring the results to humans. The main focus is to allow a certain degree of independence from constant care and allow them to move around their homes without assistance.

Individuals with Parkinson's, a well-known neuro-degenerative disorder, might derive benefits from this new technology. Experts there are hopeful their work will lead to success in humans with any disorder that results in reduced mobility. Parkinson's patients suffer from muscle trembling and are typically treated with drugs that can have lasting side effects. European doctors claim the surgical implantation of micro-electrodes in the brain could allow a patient to respond positively to neuro-stimulation, leading to increased mobility.

Such new treatments may bring hope for relieving the paralysis from a spinal cord injury. However, the process is still in its early experimental stage. In the meantime, while nothing can restore movement to the human body, those who have experienced spinal cord injuries through negligence or a work-related accident, may avail themselves of a legal professional's expertise so they can investigate their right to compensation or damages under Illinois law.

Source:, "Spinal Cord Electrical Stimulation Device Raising Hope for Paraplegics to Walk Again" No author given, May. 30, 2014

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