While common that electrical stimulation can make paralyzed patients move, this is the first time that electrical stimulation applied directly to the spinal cord "has shown voluntary activity" in a patient.
At her research lab at the University of Louisville, neuroscientist Susan Harkema turned her back to her study subject to check a reading on a computer screen.
"Hey Susie, look at this," the patient called out to her. "I can move my toe!"
Startled, Harkema spun around. The purpose of her study, which involves sending electrical stimulation to broken spinal cords, was to learn more about nerve pathways, not to actually make patients move.
That must be an involuntary spasm, she thought. She asked the patient, Rob Summers, to lie down and close his eyes and follow her commands.
"Move your left toe," she said to him -- and he did. "Move your right toe," she asked -- and he did.
"Holy s***!" she yelled out loud.
Over the next five years, Harkema's team applied electrical stimulation to three more paralyzed men, and all four developed movement, and not just small movements. In addition to wiggling their big toes, they can lift and swing their legs, move their ankles and sit up without support. Two patients can even do situps.
|"A war that we are losing."|
|FDA Approves Bionic Eyes for Implant|
|One-Time Injection Could Reduce Cholesterol Levels Forever|
|First Volunteer for Head Transplant Surgery|
|The World Trade Centre Cough|
|How to Avoid Jury Duty|
|“The world’s first hydrogen-powered train.”|
|The Growth of Corruption Reporting Websites|
|The Pirate Supply Store|
|“A dystopian vision of the future is already happening in China.”|
|Japanese Robot Serves Ice Cream From Inside a Vending Machine|
|“Google isn’t liable because it is nothing and nowhere and endless.”|
|“The first-ever driverless mass transit test program.”|
|The (Very Scary) People of Public Transit|
|“When Life Gives You Lemons.”|
|CaptchaTweet: Write Tweets in Captcha Form|
|“Rejuvenation is Finally an Industry.”|