Sunday, June 23, 2024

Helping the paralyzed move

We hope you like this latest article in our curated content series! Enjoy reading and stay healthy!

Fourteen years ago, Melanie Reid, a journalist, fell off a horse and broke her neck. The injury to her spinal cord left her paralysed, limiting the function of her four limbs and torso—a condition known as tetraplegia. For more than a decade her left hand was incapable of either sensation or motion. Now, however, Ms Reid can not only move that hand; she can also, as she puts it, practise the “right to put my hair in a ponytail”.
Ms Reid’s remarkable—if incomplete—recovery required neither surgery nor medication, but, rather, exercise and electricity. She was one of 60 patients from test sites across three countries to receive a novel form of non-invasive spinal-cord stimulation, known as arcEX…

How does the technology work?

Researchers placed two stimulating electrodes on the back of the patient’s neck—above and below the site of injury—and two electrodes by the collarbone or hipbone to close the circuit. A current was then applied at a frequency of 30Hz, which patients reported hearing as an internal buzzing noise. They then carried on with their existing exercise regimen, completing tasks to improve movement and grip strength.

What were the results? An article in Nature Medicine by Moritz et al. (2024) report that:

Seventy-two percent of participants demonstrated improvements greater than the minimally important difference criteria for both strength and functional domains. Secondary endpoint analysis revealed significant improvements in fingertip pinch force, hand prehension and strength, upper extremity motor and sensory abilities and self-reported increases in quality of life.

To find out more, read the Economist article or the scientific paper in Nature Medicine.

* This article was originally published here

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