Simulator to improve limb movement after a spinal cord injury
There have been tests carried out at the Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Centre to help people to regain movement in their limbs after a spinal cord injury.
A 32-electrode spinal stimulator has been inserted into Brian Gomez’s spine in order to try and bypass his injury and give him more function in his hands. Mr Gomez suffered a spinal cord injury 5 years ago in a dirt bike accident, which caused him to lose function in all four of his limbs.
The aim of the stimulator is to find a way around the injury, improving mobility within the limbs. Dr Daniel Lu, an associate professor at UCLA commented, “The spinal cord contains alternative pathways that we can use to bypass the injury and get messages from the brain to the limbs. Electrical stimulation trains the spinal cord to find and use these pathways.”
It is usually extremely rare for people to regain function so long after an accident. Intense rehabilitation immediately after the accident can sometimes help people to regain some function, but not to this extent.
Two months after the surgery to insert the stimulator into Mr Gomez’s spine, and after intense therapy, he is now able to use all 10 of his fingers again for the first time following his accident. The stimulator needs retuning in order for it to work properly and Mr Gomez will continue with therapy, but the results are very promising for the future and for other people with spinal cord injuries.
All of these developments are showing great progress in the understanding of spinal cord injuries and how we may be able to really help people regain movement after such an injury.
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