A man who's been paralyzed since 2010 take steps again thanks to a revolutionary device
Mark Pollock injured his spinal cord in 2010 after falling from a second-story window. The accident left him unable to move from the waist down.
But Pollock, an adventurer from Northern Ireland, has recently taken his first few strides since the accident.
He did it with the aid of a bionic suit and a jolt of electrical stimulation delivered to his spine through his skin, scientists reported earlier this month.
The feat makes Pollack the first person with complete paralysis — meaning he has no movement or feeling below the level of his injury — to walk inside a robotic "exoskeleton" while receiving noninvasive spinal stimulation, according to scientists from UCLA, who presented the findings at a recent conference.
Pollock, who has been blind since the age of 22, has used a wheelchair since his accident.
"Compared to sitting in the wheelchair, standing in the exoskeleton is incredible in itself," Pollock told Business Insider. "But standing and walking with the [spinal] stimulation is like moving from a standard vehicle into the sports version. It felt like my legs were coming alive."
Of course, the study only involved one person, and we're still a long way from finding a cure for paralysis, experts say, because once damaged, the nervous system is very difficult to repair.
"This is really exciting," Grace Peng, a program director at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, which funded the research, told Business Insider. But it "definitely needs a lot more data to convince people" that the therapy is effective, she said.
As this video shows, the stimulation enabled to Pollock voluntarily move his legs, as the exoskeleton provided the support needed to complete each step.
Breaking down barriers
This isn't the first obstacle Pollock has faced. When he was five years old, he lost his vision in one eye, and when he was 22, he lost it in his other eye, leaving him totally blind. But that didn't stop Pollock, an avid athlete, from going on to become the first blind person to race to the South Pole ten years later.
Then, in 2010, just weeks before his wedding, Pollock fell. The accident caused him to permanently lose all movement and feeling from the waist down.
He and his fiancée, Simone George, joined the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to support research on paralysis. Through that organization, he met V. Reggie Edgerton, an exercise physiologist at UCLA who was researching treatments for spinal cord injury.
Pollock had been using an exoskeleton — a powered device that supports its wearer — built by Richmond, California-based company Ekso Bionics, and Edgerton had been working on developing a non-surgical electrical stimulation therapy for spinal cord injury. Could they combine these two approaches to get even better results, Pollock and Edgerton wondered?
In search of a treatment
- New Spinal Implant Allows Paralyzed Patients To Move Again
- This Groundbreaking Combination of Scientific Treatments Could Mean A Cure For Paralysis
- Incredible Video Of Paralyzed Man Standing Up After Groundbreaking Treatment