Paralysis in the upper body can actually open the lock

Scientists used electrical stimulation of spinal cord neurons to help two patients who were paralyzed by a stroke restore part of their arms. This is the first time spinal cord stimulation has been used to treat human upper body paralysis. The study was published Feb. 20 in Nature Medicine.

One patient was able to eat independently after spinal cord stimulation. Photo by Tim Betler, UPMC and University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

In the United States, stroke is the leading cause of paralysis. It permanently weakens brain signals, making them invisible to receptors in the spinal cord and triggering movements. Marco Capogrosso of the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania says what happens if you improve the reception capacity of the spinal cord circuitry so that it “hears” more signals?

Capogrosso and other researchers surgically placed 8 electrodes on both sides of the spinal cord of two patients who were paralyzed by a stroke. This is a minimally invasive procedure in which a catheter is passed through a small hole the thickness of spaghetti and these 8 electrodes are joined together. When the electrodes are activated, they electrically stimulate receptors in the spine that control arm movements, enhancing their sensitivity to brain signals.

The two subjects underwent arm strength, movement and function tests 5 days a week for 4 weeks. When the electrodes were turned on, the first subject’s grip strength increased by 40%, the second by 108%, and both were able to reach for objects in VR (virtual reality); And when the stimulus is turned off, they can’t do that.

In addition, in the case of electrical stimulation, the first subject opened a lock for the first time in 9 years and ate independently using cutlery. The other subject was unable to complete these tasks because her paralysis was more severe, but she could grab, lift and place the metal cylinder on a wooden bolt. This is something she can’t do without receiving stimulation.

Capogrosso said: “What we didn’t expect was that this state of recovery would persist even after the stimulation ended. “Participants were assessed before participating in the study and 4 weeks after the last stimulus – using a 66-point scale to measure exercise recovery. The results showed that the first subject’s score increased by 11 points and the second subject’s score increased by 2 points.

Capogrosso said there is a lot of potential in treating stroke with this approach, especially since it has been approved for the treatment of other diseases. (Source: China Science News Wang Jianzhuo)

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