Swiss scientists have discovered neurons that restore walking to paralyzed people

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Scientific breakthrough may help paralyzed people regain the ability to walk

Specific neurons that allow paralysis to be reversed and restoration of gaitfirst discovered by Swiss and other scientists.

The achievement paves the way for more targeted therapies that could help a wide range of people, even those who have lost all feeling in their legs due to a severe spinal injury (eg after a car accident or fall), which has severed the interface between brain and in the nerve cells that control the movement of the lower limbs.
Thanks to the discovery, nine patients with severe or complete paralysis due to chronic spinal cord injury regained the ability to walkafter treating them with prolonged electrical stimulation of the specific neurons through the implantation of a special electrical device in the spine.

The researchers from Switzerland, the USA, Austria and Canada, led by neuroscientist Dr. Grégoire Courtin of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne, who made the relevant publication in the journal “Nature”, identified – with experiments in paralyzed rodents and with the help of artificial intelligence – specific groups of neurons in the spinal cord that, if electrically stimulated, play a vital role in regaining the ability to walk.

The clinical trial of the method (Epidural Electrical Stimulation-EES), which had started to be tested since 2018, allowed all nine paraplegic participants to improve or regain the ability to walk. The improvement in mobility continued five months after treatment.

The researchers stressed that their findings bring us one step closer to understanding how it is possible to restore mobility to the paralyzed. But because other neurons in the brain and spinal cord may be involved in restoring gait, the issue needs further research.

The EES technique could in the future be combined with physical therapy, as well as with gene or stem cell therapies that will replace damaged spinal cord neurons. Courten has already created the Netherlands-based startup Onward to promote the new medical technology.

See the scientific publication here

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