A huge breakthrough for paralysed patients .. walking again!! .. science fiction ?!!

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12 Aug 2016 - General

In a surprising breakthrough, paralysed patients due to severe spinal cord injuries have recovered the ability to move their legs after training with an exoskeleton linked to their brain – with one even able to walk using two crutches.

Scientists based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, developed the Walk Again Project, thinking that they could help paraplegics to move using the exoskeleton controlled by their thoughts.

But they were astonished to discover that during the training, the eight patients all started to regain the sense of touch and movement distal to the injury to their spine.

It was previously thought that the nerves in seven of the patients’ spines had been completely damaged.

An article in the Journal Scientific Reports that: “While patient one was initially not even able to stand using braces when placed in an orthostatic posture, after 10 months of training the same patient became capable of walking using a walker, braces and the assistance of one therapist. 

“At this stage, this patient became capable of producing voluntary leg movements mimicking walking, while suspended overground.

“In another example, patient seven … was capable of walking with two crutches and lower limb orthoses ... while requiring no assistance by a therapist.”

Dr Miguel Nicolelis, director of the Duke University Centre for Neuroengineering in the US, said previously seven patients were classified as having total paralysis, but had now been upgraded to “partial paralysis”.

And he added: “The recovery has not stopped yet.”

He said the researchers had “never even imagined” this kind of effect would be possible and said they were now “very excited” at seeing what they believe is a “key milestone” in helping paraplegics.

Raquel Siganporia, vice chair of the Spinal Injuries Association, said they were "encouraged to hear of the developments that the Walk Again Project has achieved and what it can mean for the future of spinal cord people".

"The research is still at an early stage and currently only tested on a small minority of spinal cord injured people, namely paraplegics," Ms Siganporia said.

"It is therefore a long way from being a proven treatment for all spinal cord injured people."

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This could potentially be a breakthrough for functional rehabilitation after spinal cord injury. It was surreal to read that the scientists were able to link the brain with an exoskeleton to facilitate movement. This was previously seen only on science fiction movies. The most impressive line in the article is that 7 out of the 8 participants were classified as having (complete) paraplegia. Only 25% of complete paraplegics gain some functional recovery but are usually unable to ambulate 1 year a...
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This research is definitely a break through and would definitely be a huge help to paralysed individuals who have already lost their hope. I did a further reading in addition to this post, "The next stage was to introduce VR, and off-the-shelf walking devices now used in physical therapy centres for the injured, as well as overhead harnesses to get the patients accustomed to making a link between movement and thinking about movement. The experimenters fed back the sensation of walking to a ...
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Assuming some of the professionals here are casual video gamers, does this remind anyone of you of the exoskeleton in the game Call of Duty Advanced Warfare? This is just like those fictional mechanical suits. Of course the exoskeletons in the game are used to enhance the abilities of humans who are otherwise functional normally. But being able to jump a few dozen meters and withstand falls from great heights is fun. This would make a big difference in lives of paralyzed patients for most of who...
 (Total 101 words)