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The marrow implant allows paraplegic patients to walk

The new device with electric pulses, still under study, showed the ability to repair the damaged nerves

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November 5, 2018, 6:37 p.m. – Published on November 5, 2018, 18h32

Three people with paraplegia were able to walk again with the help of an implant that stimulates the spinal cord through electric waves, an article published in the journal Nature. Researchers at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, revealed that the mechanism allowed patients to walk on paths and crutches; Sometimes it even managed to take some unsupportive steps.

Marrow injuries Interrupts communication through the nervous system, leading to the loss of neurological functions and paralysis. Normally, the nerves of marrow sends brain signals to the legs; However, in the case of paraplegic individuals, the signal is usually too weak to create movements. To avoid this communication failure, the implant Power the brain signal, allowing the muscles of the legs to activate. "This small device is a pulse generator, activating the electrode that is located [implantado] in the spinal cord, "explained Jocelyne Bloch, one of the authors of the study, CBS News.

In addition, second Gregoire Courtine, a scientist who developed the technique, shows implants repairing damaged nerves. "Nerve fibers are growing again. They reconcile brain to bone," he said CBS News. Due to this unexpected result, the team trusts that paralysis can be reversed to a certain extent, although it remains to be determined to what extent.

One of the patients who feel the effects of the device is David Mzee, whose paraphysis had lasted seven years. It is he who controls stimulation – that happens remotely through a clock. When activated, Mzee can walk about 800 meters with the help of a walker or crutches for his support.

Therapy STIMO

The new treatment, called Stimulus movement (STIMO), is to implant a series of electrodes that go to specific groups of muscles of the legs. These electrodes imitate the signals that the brain would make nervous system to produce movements. To develop the technique, the team took it Two crucial factors: the precision of the direction of the stimulus and the time of the impulses.

These two conditions are usually set to avoid proprioceptionwhat is The ability to feel position and body movement through the processing of signs of the body itself. "The exact moment and location of electrical stimulation is crucial for the patient's ability to produce the desired movement," he said. Jocelyne Medical news today.

According to the researchers, to ensure that the two principles were respected, patients had to Learn at the time the intention to walk with the stimulation pulses. This "calibration" was performed during the first week; From there they began to walk with the help of supports, such as hikers and crutches. "All patients were able to walk with body weight support within a week. I knew immediately that we were on the right path, "said Jocelyne.

Unexpected results

In five months, the three men have already shown an improvement in the voluntary control of the muscle, which indicates that the nervous system not only reacts to the treatment but also develops the plasticity and reorganizes the nerve fibers. This has led to an improvement in the ability to move even in the absence of stimulation. The study also indicated that patients did not experience tired muscles in the legs and walked with their hands free for more than one kilometer during the rehabilitation sessions.

Now, researchers hope to turn these discoveries into personalized treatments. They are also developing another method that can be used after the injury, when there is a greater probability of recovery when the affected tissue did not begin to die.

Other techniques

Another study of the genre, published in September New England Journal of Medicine, presented a similar device. This technique, called epidural stimulation, explores potential active signals in the brain that cross the injured region. The device, initially developed as a tool for pain control, is inserted below the site of the injury, covering regions that send sensitive signals to the legs. The frequency, intensity and duration of the electrical stimuli are produced by a wireless battery implanted in the abdominal wall.

Second Claudia Angeli, One of the researchers in the American study, when the device begins to work within the body, the electrical stimulation produced can increase the excitability of the spinal cord, which makes it more alert. "It's as if he was more aware, in fact, the bone marrow can" hear "this small" whisper "of the brain, which is still there and can generate motor patterns," he told the British newspaper The Guardian. She also pointed this outTo work perfectly, it is essential to link movements with the signals emitted by the device, so that the participants perform the training of locomotives.

Other searches recover spinal cord injuries using Special cells taken from the patient's nose, as well Nerve fibers to correct the site of the lesion. "We are looking for not only a natural or biological cure for paralysis, but for a permanent cure," said Mike Milner, CEO of the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation, in The Guardian.

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