This week an article appeared in the New York Times describing how scientists, supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, have used electrical stimulation of the lower spinal cord to enable a man who had been completely paralyzed below chest level to stand again, and even to take steps on a treadmill. The good news has since spread around the world, being reported on the BBC, The Times of India, and Canadian TV .
While the reports have – perhaps understandably –focused on the fact that this breakthrough has for the first time enabled a man with complete paralysis to stand and take a few steps, the Lancet paper describing this work also reports “improved autonomic function in bladder, sexual and thermoregulatory activity that has been of substantial benefit to the patient”. Such improvements are important as they have a huge impact on the overall wellbeing of a paralysis victim.
In this video, my colleague, Professor V. Reggie Edgerton of UCLA, who lead the team that undertook this study, describes the background to this study, and how discoveries made in both animal and clinical research made it possible.