Paralysis and spinal cord injury (SCI) are one of the most costly and debilitating diseases of our times. One in 50 people (6 million people) in the US lives with paralysis. Fortunately, advanced technology offers a ray of hope as it has been empowering paralysed patients to move and walk again.
STIMO — A Promising Therapeutic Approach
In 2018, the spines of three paralysed men received nerve signal-boosting implants, owing to the efforts of European researchers. As a result, those men were able to move over a small distance. So, how was this made possible even though that these men sustained cervical spinal cord injuries? Well, they were treated with a groundbreaking, STIMO.
STIMO (STImulation Movement Overground) is a rehabilitation protocol that uses a blend of concentrated electrical stimulation of the lumbar spinal card and weight-assisted therapy. Patients who were treated had lost control of their leg muscles many years ago. With STIMO, they regained voluntary control of leg muscles. One of the positive breakthroughs was the finding that the neurological function persisted even after training sessions when the electric stimulation was disabled.
Man Regains the Control Of His Arms and Legs with An Exoskeleton
In 2015, Thibault, a French man, fell from a height of 15m at a nightclub and injured his spinal cord. As a consequence, he became a tetraplegic. Two years later, he wore an exoskeleton and regained control of his lower limbs. This sort of miraculous recovery was made possible through months of training where the patient harnessed his brain signals to control a computer-simulate avatar. This way, he learned to perform basic movements.
Thibault underwent a surgery, where two implants were placed to cover his brain’s part that is responsible for the control movement. Nearly 64 electrodes were attached to each implant, which read the brain’s activity and transmitted the instructions to a nearby computer. Cutting-edge software was then used to collect and process Thibault’s brainwaves, which turned them into instructions for the exoskeleton and triggered movements accordingly. So far, Thibault has managed to use both his arms and legs.
Other than the cases mentioned above, recent neuroscience studies have shown promising results and encouragement towards reversing paralysis in through physical rehabilitation and technology. Many disabled patients are now pinning their hopes on these modern inventions to change their lives. With this pace of advancement, it is entirely possible that they can regain control of their body in the next decade.