Reverse Paralysis: A Remarkable Step That Can Save Millions Of Lives

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Since long, scientists are making progress for using implants to restore the freedom of movement that spinal cord injuries take away. They (scientist) are trying to reverse paralysis by using these implants.


Sumera B. Reshi

Every year, about 17,000 people in the United States sustain a spinal cord injury. That means 46 new injuries every day. Most of these people receive injuries in auto accidents, falls, violence, gun-shots and sports-related accidents like biking. A spinal cord injury (SCI) is damage to the spinal cord that causes changes in its function, either temporary or permanent.

In most cases, paralysis is caused by acute damage to the spinal cord following a traumatic injury. Nerve fibres are disordered and nerve cells at, and around, the spot of injury are destroyed. A lesion of the spinal cord not only impacts the ability to move one’s limbs; the injury also causes a large number of health-related complications and limitations in daily life like paralysis.

Is it possible to make a paralyzed person walk again? Well, thanks to modern technology, we may achieve this goal sooner than anticipated. In the next 10-15 years, scientists are hoping to reverse paralysis caused by spinal cord injuries. Grégoire Courtine, a French neuroscientist, is now developing revolutionary technology that will connect the part of the brain that controls movement to the spinal cord.

According to École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, a Swiss-based research company, “The brain-spine interface bridges the spinal cord injury, in real-time and wirelessly. The neuroprosthetic system decodes spiking activity from the brain’s motor cortex and then relays this information to a system of electrodes located on the surface of the lumbar spinal cord, below the injury. Electrical stimulation of a few volts, delivered at precise locations in the spinal cord, modulates distinct networks of neurons that can activate specific muscles in the legs.”

What is Reverse Paralysis?

Scientists assert that there is a hope and open window of possibility that a damaged nerve can be revived or spinal cord injury can be reversed by regenerating the damaged cells. They are making remarkable improvements in using brain implants to restore the freedom of movement. They call this process reverse paralysis.

Professor Courtine conducted certain experiments to reverse the damage caused by spinal cord injury (SCI). What he did is he watched a macaque monkey, it huddled forcefully at one end of a treadmill. Courtine had already put a blade to cut the monkey’s spinal cord halfway, paralyzing its right leg. Professor Courtine wanted to prove he could get the monkey walking again.  To prove his research, he and his colleagues installed a recording device beneath its skull, touching its motor cortex. He sealed a pad of flexible electrodes around the animal’s spinal cord, below the injury. A wireless connection joined the two electronic devices.

What happened is that a system read the monkey’s intention to move and then transmitted it immediately in the form of spurts of electrical stimulation to its spine. Soon the monkey’s right leg began to move. That was the result of professor Courtine’s tireless research to reverse paralysis.

Since long, scientists are making progress for using implants to restore the freedom of movement that spinal cord injuries take away. They (scientist) are trying to reverse paralysis by using these implants.

Furthermore, research has been going to lab animals. Scientists have been successful in attaching and controlling computer cursors or robotic arms with their thoughts which were possible due to brain implant wire to machines. The next step for the scientists is toward reversing paralysis once and for all. Researchers are wirelessly connecting the brain-reading technology directly to electrical stimulators on the body, creating what Courtine calls “neural bypass” so that people’s thoughts can again move their limbs.

An experiment was conducted by the doctors by injecting stem cells into the spines of paralyzed patients. It helped in improving and feeling better in the previously insensitive body parts.

In another experiment, the researcher’s injected 20 million neural stem cells directly into the spinal cord of three partially paralyzed patients. Before the experiment, all of the three patients could feel nothing in their lower bodies, however, after six months, two of them could feel touch, heat down below their belly.

Lo and behold! We are at the threshold of reversing an insensitive and unresponsive life back into action by reverse paralysis. This might seem a small step but it is a big leap towards reversing motionless life into motion.

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