Researchers from an Australian hospital are developing a wireless device that could make Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) patients regain the ability to walk. This device, made from a nickel-and-titanium composite called nitinol, would be one of only a few mechanisms that could return limb movement to SCI, and even Stroke, patients. Thousands of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) patients, however, need treatment now.
Another device which paralysis patients could consider is the Epidural Electrical Stimulation Device. Pioneered by the Reeve Foundation, this treatment for SCI that primarily involves implanting an epidural spinal cord stimulator is readily available to those needing immediate treatment and improvement.
For most SCI patients, complete paralysis is inevitable. Damage to the spinal cord, resulting from a blow to the spine that fractures the vertebrae, means that the signals sent to and from a person’s body to the brain are disrupted. With this condition, a person may expect temporary or permanent impairment to sensory and motor function.
Spinal Cord Injury may be complete or incomplete. In severe, complete cases, absolutely no movement is retained. Other complications may be experienced by some patients including difficulties in the respiratory system and heart, as well as some problems with bladder and bowel functions. High dose steroids, braces and decompression surgery are some of the usual treatments, but often do not guarantee that patients will regain voluntary control especially to those with severe spinal fractures.
Once fully developed, the Australian-constructed device which would involve a non-invasive implanting procedure, could add to the few SCI treatments that promise improvements in a patient’s limb movement capability. A younger demographic is targeted as being ideal candidates for the device due to their ability to recover faster from surgery. The major concern to this otherwise promising procedure is that it will only be available years after the researchers have finalised development.
At present, the epidural stimulation device, which has already proven to be a sustainable treatment for SCI patients, has demonstrated a capacity in restoring limb movement to patients who have lost significant motor function due to spinal damage. Using mesenchymal stem cells, the combination of epidural stimulation and cell therapy encourages the regrowth of brain cells and assists in nerve tissue repair. Coupled with extensive rehabilitation, the epidural stimulation procedure ensures patients are much closer to regaining voluntary movement.
Global Stem Cells patient Szymon Bisaga underwent a similar procedure for his damaged C5-C6 which resulted from a tram accident that paralysed his legs. After 13 months of no leg movement, Szymon was able to control his legs again and is pursuing continued recovery. Watch his testimonial here.
For information on spinal cord injury and how epidural stimulation and stem cells can help, send an enquiry to one of our stem cell specialists.