Paralyzed patients have regained the ability to walk again in two studies published Monday. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers used a device originally developed for pain control on patients. The devices sent sensorimotor signals to the patients’ legs; a battery implanted in the abdominal wall allowed stimulation to be controlled wirelessly. It played on the theory of epidural stimulation, or the idea that even though these patients had lost the ability to move their legs, their brain was still sending signals to the spinal-cord injury. The four test patients—who were paraplegic from bike and traffic accidents—all reported walking. One patient was walking after 15 weeks with a frame, and another was able to walk 90 meters without a break after a year-and-a-half. “Being a participant in this study truly changed my life, as it has provided me with a hope that I didn’t think was possible after my car accident,” one patient, Thomas, told The Guardian. The other study, published in Nature Medicine, used a similar method and found paralyzed patients were able to use their thoughts to move. Researchers for that study also are hoping the ability to regain movement could extend beyond simply walking to other automatic functions, like bladder control.
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