Thanks to the combination of both electrical energy and intense physical training, a man with a total spinal cord injury, has managed to regain the ability to stand up and move his legs autonomously.
The patient, Andrew Meas, broke his neck in a road accident with a motorcycle over a decade ago, and because of that, he lost the ability to walk, stand or move his legs voluntarily, and even after 21 months of hard rehabilitation and training, everything remained the same.
But four years after his accident, a group of researchers from the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center at the University of Louisville, decided to combine his rehabilitation process with a new treatment known as spinal cord epidural stimulation (scES).
In spite of being quite invasive, consisting of the introduction of a device in the spinal cord that in turn provides electrical stimulation to the lumbosacral zone during physical training, supplemented by the use of an electrode that penetrates the skin in the abdominal area carrying the impulses generated.
During a period of 44 months of physical training with scES, Meas has so far recovered a capacity to move its lower limbs, without the need for scES at the moment. The treatment provides for a recovery of the ability to control movements and the ability to keep standing, even after years of complete paralysis, thanks to recovery of plasticity dependent from exercise and physical stimulation.
Plus, Meas was part of a prior study, from the same institution, which included four patients in similar conditions to him that made all the participants recover at least some motor functions of the affected limbs
That study, demanded one-hour of exercises per day, over a period of nine months, in which patients first stood, and then began to walk, but Meas decided to keep train at home after for a year, before returning to the Laboratory, for a new training regime that lasted three months.
After all this training, Meas was finally able not only to stand up, with his legs fully stretched, but he was also capable of doing so with just one leg too, and without any kind of electric stimulation.
This idea of using electric stimulation in order to help the patients recovery in those suffering from similar conditions is both incredible and revolutionary, and although the idea is not entirely new, the results now achieved are incredible, and open doors to a new future and new treatment conditions.