Epidural electrical stimulation of the spinal cord allowed four young men who have been paralyzed for years to voluntarily move their legs. The study was funded by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and other institutions.
The four research participants had chronic motor complete spinal cord injuries and could not move their legs. They ranged in neurological level from C7-T5. It had been at least two years since each of their injuries.
Direct epidural electrical stimulation was applied to the participants’ lower spinal cords. The stimulation mimicked signals the brain normally transmits to cause movement. After the signal was triggered, the spinal cord reengaged its neural network to control and direct muscle movement.
After the treatments, all were able to move their lower extremities. Three were able to move immediately after the stimulator was implanted and activated. The effect was enhanced when combined with rehabilitative therapy. Over time, the participants were able to move with less stimulation, which indicates that their spinal networks were able to learn and improve their neural functions.
The results and rapid recovery were unexpected. Researchers believe some pathways may still be intact after an injury and able to facilitate voluntary movements. This groundbreaking work demonstrates that patients have the potential for functional recovery even after a devastating spinal cord injury.
The participants’ health has improved in other ways. They have increased muscle mass and regulated their blood pressure. They also have reduced fatigue and improved well-being. All four participants were able to independently bear weight.
HDS Medallion and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation are partners. You can support the foundation’s groundbreaking research by purchasing one of HDS Medallion’s Classic Poppy Punch Caribbean Blue, Espresso Flower Shower, or Pretty Paisley Bright Blue bags or a Premier Daisy bag. One of the original five designated bags has sold out, so as of January 1st we are adding the Reeve Foundation designation to our Premier Jeweled Ribbon bag. With your purchase of any of these five bags, we will donate $7 to the Reeve Foundation so they can continue their important work to find a cure for spinal cord injuries.