Whenever experimental treatments show a degree of success, no matter what the field may be, there is always cause for concern from experts within that field. Quite often, people begin to see these successes as potential cures—and that is simply not the case.
Experts are stressing this in a recent story where three paralyzed patients are finding that they are able to move their legs when electricity is applied to their spinal cords. The interesting thing here is that this was also done three years before, so all signs point towards this application being legitimate and not just a fluke.
Professors at the Imperial College London are stressing that while the breakthrough is extraordinary and a huge step in the right direction, there is “no miracle cure on the way.”
It’s really all about keeping expectations grounded. In these recent cases, the electrical devices allow the patients to lift their legs and wiggle their toes, but they still require wheelchairs to get around and cannot stand on their own.
Still, despite their reluctance to whole-heartedly stand by these applications, doctors are also recognizing that even these small breakthroughs could provide paralyzed patients with more freedoms that ever before.
One of the patients, Rob Summers, has been paralyzed below the neck for more than two years. Researchers believe that the electric stimulus is helping the brain and the spinal cord communicate through pathways that doctors had assumed were severely damaged after Rob’s paralysis.
This treatment gets a bit more substantial when you consider the fact that there are benefits even when the device is not running. This has been true primarily of bowel, bladder, and sexual functions.
Experts also believe that this treatment can be wonderful in terms of advances in physical therapy. Many believe that within ten years, the application of such treatments can substantially improve the quality of life for those that have been paralyzed due to spinal cord injuries.