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'Dream come true' research has paralyzed men moving again

'Dream Come True' Research Has Paralyzed Men Moving Again
Paralysis is usually permanent, but for four men suffering from spinal cord injuries, there is new hope -- and scientists say all it took was a zap.

WRC-TV reports that "an electrical stimulator was implanted on [their] spinal cords ... researchers found the stimulator helped the men move their toes, ankles and knees on their own."

Spinal cord zaps have been used before, but according to Susan Harkema, the lead researcher at University of Louisville, this is the first time a patient's muscles have shown voluntary activity when electrical stimulation was applied directly to the spinal cord.

These preliminary findings will be published in the journal Brain on Tuesday.

The stimulation works by retraining the nerve to communicate with the brain, but this progress came as a surprise.

CNN reports the goal of Harkema's study was to analyze how nerve pathways reacted when electrical stimulation was applied to broken spinal cords. So when one of the patients said, 'I can move my toe,' Harkema was shocked.

The paralyzed men were, too. In a phone interview in 2011 with NBC, one of the first men to receive the stimulator spoke about his improvements.

"Being able to move my toes, ankles, knees on command... it was absolutely incredible ... there are not enough words to describe how I felt. At one point it was just a dream, and now it's reality."

If that dream-come-true can be proven effective in more subjects, some doctors say it could alter the prognosis of the thousands that are suffering from spinal cord injuries in the U.S.

A doctor not involved in the study told LiveScience, "Spinal cord injury may no longer mean a lifelong sentence of complete paralysis."

But a BBC medical correspondent points out this technique does not actually repair the spinal cord. The four patients involved in the study are still unable to walk without assistance.

More information is needed, but researchers now have the money to implant the stimulator into eight more patients.

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Pantino4 April 09 2014 at 8:18 AM

thank you, science and your inspiration.

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kaustin April 09 2014 at 11:22 AM

Sign me up! My neurological disorder (HSP) causes a short circuit between my brain and my leg muscles, causing my legs to quit supporting me, without notice, and I drop like a rock. I haven't been able to walk unassisted in 23 years, moving from a cane to two crutches to my current full-time wheelchair over the course of those years. I'd comment more, but I'm feeling the urge to call my neurologist and start pestering the crap out of him to put me on the list!

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steph61 April 09 2014 at 12:12 PM

Amazing...good for them...

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captsharky1 April 09 2014 at 12:19 PM

This is really big news. I dont understand why it is buried in the background. I shall now donate more to spinal cord injury research. My keyboard is soaked.....

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evelyon7 April 09 2014 at 12:37 PM


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nightingale451 April 09 2014 at 12:44 PM

May I PLEASE have some contact information for this research? My son NEEDS this!! he is an otherwise healthy 30 yr old man who is paralyzed due to an incomplete spinal cord injury in 2007. I would love to know more about this research and how he can become involved. Thanks in advance. Every time I learn something like this it gives me HOPE! Nightingale451@aol.com

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1 reply
Janis nightingale451 April 09 2014 at 5:40 PM

Call the University of Louisville. I think they would have some kind of information to help you.

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colleen lotenero April 09 2014 at 12:52 PM

Thank GOD!!!

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hey April 09 2014 at 3:20 PM

fantastic, I hope someday no one will hear you are permently paralyzed, or permently blind or deaf

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droppitch April 09 2014 at 3:37 PM

God bless the Doctor's doing this research . I am a long time contributor to this cause and my thought's & prayer's are with them daily

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Linda Lee Lewis April 09 2014 at 3:56 PM

Good News.....

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