E-stim breakthrough: paralyzed patient able to take steps

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A paralyzed patient who underwent electrical stimulation in his spinal cord has been able to stand up and even take a few steps, making him the first such patient to regain the ability to consciously move parts of his body.

Rob Summers and his physicians said the success represents a major breakthrough in the field of paralysis. The treatment involved surgical implantation of a small strip of electrodes along Summers' lower spinal cord. This implant provides electrical signals to nerve cells in the leg that mimic what would normally be sent by the brain to stimulate movement.

Summers was injured in 2006, and the e-stimulation was implanted in 2009 after years of intense physical therapy. Although researchers cautioned that a cure is still a long way off and more studies are needed, they said the news gives hopes to the roughly 12,000 people who suffer a spinal cord injury annually in the U.S. Most, like Summers, are hurt in car accidents, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center.

The findings were published in the Friday edition of The Lancet. The video can be seen here.