This device could help spinal cord injury patients walk again

In Australia alone, there are more than 20,000 individuals living with paralysis. This prompted both SpinalCure Australia and Neuroscience Research Australia to call for government funding of their new eWalk trial.

Neuroscience Research Australia leads the eWalk trial in Sydney with additional sites in Chicago, Glasgow, and Toledo. Their novel treatment uses two electrodes that interact between the site of injury and the surface of the skin. When this neurostimulation is partnered with step and walking training, people with chronic paralysis benefit from the rewiring of neural pathways that were previously impaired.

“Neurostimulation is like a hearing aid for the spinal cord.  The idea is that tailored electrical currents can amplify messages transmitted via surviving neural pathways, thereby enhancing communication between the brain and the body.” according to Professor Simon Gandevia (MD PhD DSc FAA FRACP).

Professor Simon Gandevia is one of the four Founding Scientists of the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute, now known as NeuRA. He has served on many editorial boards and is currently the Senior Editor of the Journal of Physiology. Since 2005, he has also served as Associate Editor for the Journal of Applied Physiology.

A spinal cord injury results from the damage to any part of the spinal cord including the nerves located within the spinal canal. Any sudden force or cut to the spine can result in this type of injury. Loss of strength, sensation and function are a common result and can often be permanent.

“The impact of a spinal cord injury is life-shattering, and there is no treatment, pill or lifestyle change that can mitigate its effects.  Loss of movement is just the tip of the iceberg – ongoing pain, digestive health issues, pressure sores, spasm, loss of bladder and bowel control and impaired sexual function are just some of the effects that can make everyday life so difficult.” said SpinalCure Australia CEO, Kathryn Borkovic.

Borkovic says that “neurostimulation holds the most promise out of current research to bring tangible improvement to people with spinal cord injury” which is why the panel chose to fund this research and the eWalk trial.

The success of this trial would mean an affordable treatment which could easily be rolled out both domestically and internationally to patients who suffer from paralysis due to spinal cord injury.

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