According to a report published in the journal Nature, three patients suffering with spinal cord injuries were able to walk again after they had followed a new treatment involving epidural electrical stimulation (EES) that was applied to the spinal cord.
The treatment was administered to three male patients who had suffered a spinal cord injury that resulted in partial or complete lower limp paralysis. The researchers administered the EES in bursts that were controlled wirelessly.
École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)/ YouTube
Within just a few days after starting treatment, the patients showed fast progress and went from stepping on a treadmill to supported walking on the ground. Eventually, they were able to walk for up to one hour on the treadmill, while receiving EES.
After rehabilitation, the patients could either walk with support or a walker and they were reported to have gained voluntary leg movements without the help of the EES treatment afterwards.
The therapy is promising, but it is not a cure due to the different natures of the many spinal cord injuries out there. The treatment is also time-reliant: patients with long-standing injuries might not report the same rate of success as those who have fresh ones.
Nonetheless, the research and the results it yielded are building a very strong foundation for creating an even better approach towards restoring function to some people with spinal cord injuries who would have otherwise had no hope of ever walking again.