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New Treatment Option for Spinal Cord Injuries

Home » New Treatment Option for Spinal Cord Injuries
August 20, 2019
Edward Smith

New Treatment Option for Spinal Cord Injuries

Recently, an article published in Nature discussed revolutionary new treatment options for those who have been paralyzed by a spinal cord injury. The spinal cord, protected by vertebrae, is a bundle of nerves that transmits motor signals to almost every part of the body. Furthermore, the spinal cord also protects nerves that transmit sensory signals from the body to the brain. Like the neurons in the brain, the nerves of the spinal cord often do not regenerate once torn. This is what makes spinal cord injuries so challenging to treat. While there have been treatment options to help manage complications of the injury, such as pain, there haven’t been any effective treatment options to help individuals who have been paralyzed. This recently published article indicates that a revolutionary treatment option may be effective for those who have suffered a serious spinal injury.

A Case Report: Intentional Movement After a Spinal Injury

The article published in Nature reviewed a case report of an individual who suffered a complete tear of the spinal cord. A young man had been training to one day play in Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, this dream was shattered when he was struck by a vehicle in a hit and run pedestrian accident while walking down the street. This accident caused a complete spinal cord injury. The connections between his brain and his spine were transected, and he was left paralyzed from his chest to his feet. The doctors told him that he would never be able to move any part of his lower body again.

Four years later, as he lays in bed, he is involved in a scientific experiment. The goal of this experiment is to help people who have suffered severe spinal injuries move the paralyzed parts of their body. He realizes that he is intentionally able to wiggle one of his toes; something he hasn’t done in four years. How can he do this?

Electrical Stimulation of the Spinal Cord

The brain and spinal cord communicate using a series of electrical signals. These signals travel up and down the neurons which act as paths connecting the brain to every part of the body. In a spinal cord injury, these paths are disrupted. The electrical signals are essentially blocked and information cannot circumvent this block. As a result, the spinal cord and the brain are not able to communicate.

The scientists reasoned that if the brain and the spinal cord communicate using a series of electrical signals, these signals might be able to be replicated. The researchers implanted a strip of electrodes into the spine of the injured individual. If this strip of electrodes can recreate the electrical signals from the brain, injured individuals may be able to stand up and walk. This would represent a revolutionary treatment option and a newfound hope for people who previously had none.

Amplification of the Signals: A New Approach

Electrical stimulation is far from a new treatment in medicine; however, the approach of this research team is different. Prior research studies have focused on using stem cells to treat spinal cord injuries. In stem cell treatments, the goal is to regrow the injured nerves. One day, the hope is that stem cells can be used to regrow entire tissues and organs that can be transplanted. Unfortunately, this treatment is still in its infancy and is a long way from being widely accessible.

The team investigating electrical stimulation has discovered that even in the most severe spinal cord injuries, a few connections between the brain and the spine may still remain intact. Using their electrical circuitry, they amplify the signals that run from the brain to the spine through these precious few connections. When these electrical signals are amplified, meaningful signals can get through. This allows individuals to move parts of their body that were once paralyzed.

Already, many people have seen the benefits of this treatment. In multiple labs, there have been reports of individuals flexing their legs and walking with support. This electrical stimulation has also helped improve blood pressure and bathroom habits, which are damaged when the lower body is paralyzed. It will be exciting to see how electrical stimulation improves the quality of life of people with spinal cord injuries.

Sacramento Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer. There are revolutionary treatment options available for those who have suffered a spinal cord injury. If you or your loved one has sustained an injury of the spinal cord due to the negligence of another individual or entity, please call me using (800) 404-5400 or (916) 921-6400 for free, friendly legal advice.

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Image Attribution: The image that accompanies this post was found first on Pixabay and has been shown on this page with permission.
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