Paralyzed Man regains mobility after receiving implant

May 23, 2011, 07:44 by R.E. Christian

An experimental treatment has allowed an Oregon man, paralyzed from the waist down, to regain movement and even take a few steps, doctors said.

Rob Summers of Portland was struck by a hit-and-run driver in 2006 and faced a life in a wheelchair when three years of intensive therapy brought no signs of improvement in his condition, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Doctors say Summers, 25, is the first patient who has regained the ability to consciously move parts of the body as a result of direct electrical stimulation of the spinal cord, which apparently reactivates the nerve circuits that remain intact.

In the procedure, a small strip of electrodes is implanted along the lower spinal cord that sends signals meant to mimic those that the brain sends to stimulate movement.

After the surgery, Summers and the researchers spent two years of intensive training to identify exactly what combination of stimulation to the spinal cord and body position would enable Summers to move a toe or an ankle, rise to a standing position or take a step in response to his brain thinking about making those movements.

"It was absolutely incredible," Summers said of the feeling when he stood again for the first time. "There are not enough words to describe what I felt. It was an amazing feeling."

Doctors cautioned that much more research will be required before many other paralyzed patients could attempt the treatment or before they could predict how much movement might be restored.

Source: UPI