Hallelujah on high, this week has been a windfall of medical leaps and bounds! First, this guy voluntarily had his hand amputated so he could be fitted with a bionic limb, and now this. Televangelists"healers", take note.
In what's being touted as a breakthrough for people suffering from spinal-cord injuries, a man paralyzed from the chest down has regained the ability to stand and take his first hesitant steps in four years, thanks to a team of researchers from the University of Louisville, UCLA and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
The team used an array of stimulating electrodes implanted into 25-year-old Rob Summers (photo), who suffered a complete motor injury at the C7/T1 level of the spinal cord after a hit-and-run accident in 2006. The electrodes mimicked signals the brain usually sends to initiate movement and provided direct electrical stimulation to the lower part of the spinal cord that controls movement of the hips, knees, ankles and toes.
Rather than bypassing the nervous system to directly stimulate the leg muscles, the electrodes stimulated the spinal cord's own neural network that, when combined with sensory input from the legs, was able control the muscle and joint movements necessary to stand and and step with assistance on a treadmill.