Spinal cord injuries are often the result of trauma. Victims of spinal cord injuries face unimaginable difficulties. As a Miami personal injury attorney, I have represented and currently represent victims of traumatic spinal cord injuries. As part of my representation I try to account for what my clients medical needs are going to be in the future with a comprehensive life care plan. These life care plans account for medical care, wheelchairs, transportation vans, house modifications, and attendant care, physical therapy, etc. These life care plans are usually in the millions of dollars.
Now there is hope for victims of spinal cord injuries. In a study in Switzerland, scientists restored full movement to rats paralysed by spinal cord injuries. A combination of electrical and chemical stimulation of the spinal cord together with robotic support had the rats walking and running. While it remains unclear if a similar technique could help people with spinal cord damage, the technique does hint at new ways of treating paralysis.
As reported in the Sun Sentinel, Elizabeth Bradbury, a Medical Research Council senior fellow at King’s College London. said; “This is ground-breaking research and offers great hope for the future of restoring function to spinal injured patients.”
Now for the bad news, Bradbury notes that very few human spinal cord injuries are the result of a direct cut through the cord, which is what the rats had. Human injuries are most often the result of bruising or compression and it is unclear if the technique could be translated across to this type of injury. It is also unclear if this kind of electro-chemical “kick-start” could help a spinal cord that has been damaged for a long time, with complications like scar tissue, holes and where a large number of nerve cells and fibres have died or degenerated.
Even if the treatment does not translate to human injuries, the progress is very encouraging.
Bryce Vissel, head of the Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Laboratory at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, said the study “suggests we are on the edge of a truly profound advance in modern medicine: the prospect of repairing the spinal cord after injury”.
Courtine hopes to start human trials in a year or two at Balgrist University Hospital Spinal Cord Injury Centre in Zurich.
“Our rats have become athletes when just weeks before they were completely paralysed,” he said. “I am talking about 100 percent recuperation of voluntary movement.”