Personalized electrical stimulation of the spinal cord, using “electrode paddles” specifically designed for spinal cord injuries, was successful in short-term restoration of independent motor movements in three patients with complete sensorimotor paralysis. journal ‘Nature Medicine’.
Three people with spinal cord injuries manage to walk thanks to electrical stimulation
This technique developed by a Swiss team of researchers, already reported in 2018, which is part of an ongoing clinical trial, demonstrates that stimulation treatments specially designed for each patient, rather than more general ones, result in “higher efficiency and more diverse motor activities” even in the most severe spinal cord injuries.
Grégoire Courtine and Jocelyne Bloch, responsible for the experiment, confirm that electrical stimulation of the spinal cord is currently a promising therapeutic option for restoring motor function in people with spinal cord injury. But they point out that, until now, continuous electrical stimulation therapies have mostly been employed using “tailored” neurotechnologies, which were originally designed to treat pain.
These adapted electrical stimulation devices “fail to stimulate all spinal cord nerves associated with leg and trunk movements, which may limit recovery of all motor function,” they note. Courtine and Bloch and their teams designed a new electrode palette that reaches all the nerves associated with leg and trunk movements, which they tested on three male volunteers aged 29 to 41.
The team also combined this technology with “a personalized computational framework that allowed the electrode palette to be precisely positioned for each of the patients and to personalize the activity stimulation programs,” they explain. This “optimized approach” to spinal cord stimulation allowed the ability to walk independently and other motor activities, such as pedaling and swimming, to be restored in a single day in the three patients, who have complete paralysis of the legs.
A subsequent neurorehabilitation helped these three men to be able to perform these activities independently, with the help of a tablet, outside the laboratory, the authors indicate.
The researchers say their study shows that personalized spinal cord stimulation treatment is more effective, opening the door to being able to help people with a wide range of spinal cord injuries.