Severe spinal cord injury results in a permanent loss of function and sensation — understandable because the connection between the brain and the lower body has been severed. No one had ever discovered a way to induce the body to repair such connections.
And yet, researchers have found — unexpectedly — that by using an electrical device to stimulate the spinal cord below the site of the injury, it is possible for paralyzed people to assert limited control over muscle movements, something that was thought to be impossible.
The discovery ignited the hope that, one day, there may be a way to further restore function to such people, which would help prevent the serious long-term side effects suffered when someone remains immobile for a long period of time.
The concept, written about in the Oxford Journal, is similar to the one used for auditory implants, which are now viable commercial products.
At one time, it was thought that when someone’s ears had lost the ability to hear, the person was deaf forever. But now there are devices to bypass the ear and stimulate the nerves directly. As a result, many people who were “permanently” deaf can now hear.
(READ the HealthDay story in the Philadelphia Inquirer)