A new study shows that an electronic spinal implant has enabled a paralyzed woman to walk for the first time in 18 months.
The 48-year-old woman, Nerina, suffers from multiple system atrophy (MSA), a rare nervous system condition that causes progressive damage to nerve cells in the brain.
The primary sign of MSA is low blood pressure when the patient stands upright, causing them to feel dizzy or faint.
Scientists in Switzerland provided Nerina with an "electronic stimulator", which was implanted directly into the spinal cord, to reactivate specific nerve cells that regulate blood pressure.
The scientists' implant consists of electrodes connected to an electrical impulse generator commonly used to treat chronic pain.
After being bedridden for 18 months, she was able to walk longer distances. The researchers reported that three months after the implant was placed, she was able to walk up to 820 feet (250 metres) with some help.
The implant was developed by scientists at the NeuroRestore Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland.
"MSA is defined as a disease in which nerve cells die - specifically the neurons responsible for controlling blood pressure," said Jocelyn Bloch, of NeuroRestore. This means that when the patient stands up, blood pressure drops, followed by fainting, meaning that you feel unwell and have to rest for the rest of your life. We applied this technique to one patient. So the next goal now is to do that in more patients.
The implant has already been used to treat low blood pressure in patients with quadriplegia (those who cannot move the upper and lower parts of the body voluntarily).
For the first seven days, she underwent tilt table tests - meaning that she was laying on a table that slowly moved her body position from horizontal to vertical - which slowed down her blood pressure drop.
She also received in-hospital rehabilitation three days a week for six weeks and then began using the system at home while standing.
Three months later, she no longer fainted and can walk 820 feet using a treadmill.
Nerina described the changes as "a miracle for me". "For the past two months I've been able to walk again," she said.
Patients' quality of life is greatly reduced as they must remain in a reclining position to avoid fainting.
Source RT - April 22-2022