Paralyzed Men Can Move Again After New Treatment

First Posted: Jul 31, 2015 07:59 PM EDT

A new treatment may give those who are paralyzed a way to move again. Five men with complete motor paralysis were able to do step-like movements after a non-invasive treatment delivered electrical simulation to their spinal cords.

In this latest trial, the men were able to move while their legs were suspended in braces that hung from the ceiling. This allowed them to move freely without resistance from gravity. Movement in this environment is not comparable to walking. However, it's a huge step forward toward the eventual goal of developing a therapy with those suffering from a spinal cord injury.

"These encouraging results provide continued evidence that spinal cord injury may no longer mean a life-long sentence of paralysis and support the need for more research," said Roderic Pettigrew, one of the researchers, in a news release. "The potential to offer a life-changing therapy to patients without requiring surgery would be a major advance; it could greatly expand the number of individuals who might benefit from spinal stimulation. It's a wonderful example of the power that comes from combining advances in basic biological research with technological innovation."

The five men, who had each been paralyzed for more than two years, underwent a series of 45 minute sessions, once a week, for about 18 weeks. This allowed the scientists to determine the effects of non-invasive electrical stimulation on their ability to move their legs.

At the beginning of the study, the men's legs only moved when the stimulation was strong enough to generate involuntary movements. However, when the patients attempted to move their legs further while receiving stimulation and physical training, the men were able to double their range of motion when voluntarily moving their legs while receiving stimulation.

The findings could be huge in terms of creating a treatment for those that sufer from paralysis. With that said, more research will need to be conducted.

The findings are published in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

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