A man completely paralyzed below the thoracic vertebrae in the middle of his back, which he injured in a snowmobile accident a few years ago, is now able to walk again. This was made possible thanks to researchers at Mayo Clinic and UCLA who implanted a spinal cord neurostimulator below the injury and helped the man undergo dozens of rehabilitation sessions. Similar results were also just recently reported by researchers at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, but with somewhat different type of patients.
Following the rehab regimen, when the device was turned on, the man is able to claim some pretty impressive achievements for someone who is completely paraplegic. He does use a front-wheeled walker and has people nearby just in case, but he’s able to stand alone and make independent steps while holding onto the walker.
Here are some stats from a few individual record setting rehab sessions:
- Total distance: 111 yards (102 meters) — about the length of a football field
- Total number of steps: 331
- Total minutes walking with assistance:16 minutes
- Step speed: 13 yards per minute (0.20 meters per second)
The man still doesn’t feel his legs, and initially required mirrors in order to constantly see where they are. He has adapted to this limitation and has learned to become more efficient in his walking, getting farther and farther over time.
“Now I think the real challenge starts, and that’s understanding how this happened, why it happened, and which patients will respond, in a statement said Kristin Zhao, Ph.D., co-principal investigator and director of Mayo Clinic’s Assistive and Restorative Technology Laboratory.
Here’s a video with the researchers and patient showing off pretty impressive achievements:
Study in Nature Medicine: Neuromodulation of lumbosacral spinal networks enables independent stepping after complete paraplegia…