Electrical spine stimulation may finally bring happiness to people with spinal cord injury. The initial test of a research that is ongoing has been a success with the first paralyzed test subject regaining some control of the lower spinal cord after an electric spinal stimulation. Four more people who have different forms of spinal injuries are undergoing the test to establish if the same results can be achieved in more than one subject.
Though the first test carried out by a Neuroscientist called Susan Harkema was successful, allowing a person with spinal cord injury to not only stand on his own but also gain control of his lower body. Researchers and scientist were concerned that the Harkema shocking breakthrough, maybe anomaly and that the same results may not be achieved in more than one person. It’s for the same reason that he Neuroscientist was allowed by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to continue her research and therapy with four more spinal injury patients, and determine if the same results achieved with the first person can be achieved by the four.
Electrical spine cord stimulation has been an ongoing test,but the previous tests (carried out on rats) have never achieved the level of success achieved by Susan. This has marveled many scientists who have all alone known that by stimulating an injured spinal cord with electrical current can awaken the injured spinal cord and cause the muscles to move. The set back that the scientist faced was the idea that for the muscles to move, a large current had to be used on the spinal cord.
This idea was found to be misleading. The high current stimulation was too much for the lower spinal cord neurons to process the information needed to cause the body to move on its own. The Harkema’s team used the animal experiments concept that appeared in the “Nature Neuroscience” 2009 report. The study showed that, other than receiving signals from the brain, the spinal cord neurons also help the muscles to move and shift by providing a network of sensory feedback in the body.
The team uses an array of 16- electrode implanted in the epidural space which spans approximately 6 spinal levels. An implanted pulse generator with a wireless control is connected to the array to generate electrical pulses of between 2-100 hertz. The right combination of stimulation intensities and electrodes are delivered in the spinal cord near the injured area, to awaken the connections and generate the desired response. The four paralyzed men showed remarkable responses by being able to move their ankle, leg, and toe, after the electrical spinal cord stimulation therapy.
The researcher could not however explain how two of the patients with complete sensory and motor paralysis had gained voluntary leg control, given that they had lost all possible communication between the brain and legs. But the researchers said this should open a platform for a new discussion in the medical field on the human paralysis mechanisms.
Some responses are more difficult to achieve. And to get to a point where the paralyzed patient is able to stand on his/her own requires more tests to be carried out to establish the right electrode configurations. There is hope however that soon this will be achieved for people with most spinal cord injuries if not all. For people who had lost all hope of ever recovering from spinal cord injury, there is hope of bringing happiness again in their life.