How Tech Could Be A Game Changer In Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis

There appears to be new hope for people who have suffered from serious spinal cord injuries. A new study published in the journal Nature Medicine reveals that motor function can be restored in as little as one day through electrical stimulation. These results are thanks to groundbreaking Swiss researchers working with patients like Italian native ​​Michel Roccati, who has lower-body paralysis due to a motorcycle crash that injured his spinal cord. Following the accident, he could not use his lower body, but now, he can stand, walk, and climb stairs (via U.S News & World Report).

Roccati can walk courtesy of an electrical implant that neurosurgeon Dr. Jocelyne Bloch at Lausanne University Hospital inserted into his body. He still has no feeling in his legs, but the implant sends signals from nerves in his spinal cord to his brain. His brain can then send signals to his legs. Dr. Bloch told the BBC she was stunned by Roccati's fast recovery. "Michel is absolutely incredible. He should be able to use this technology to progress and be better and better."

The BBC reports that the nine patients who received the implant can't walk independently in their everyday lives yet, but they can practice walking.

"This is not a cure for spinal cord injury. But it is a critical step to improve people's quality of life," Professor Grégoire Courtine, who led the team that developed the technology at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, told the BBC.

Different kinds of spinal cord paralysis

According to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, about one in 50 Americans live with paralysis, and spinal cord injuries are the second leading cause. While people may think paralysis is due to a specific injury, such as a back injury, it's ultimately caused by damage to the nerves (via

A spinal cord injury will fit into one of two categories: complete and incomplete. Incomplete spinal injuries are more common, and a person will experience some feeling and movement (via However, the spinal cord or nerves are completely severed in a complete spinal cord injury. As a result, the afflicted individual will lose the full ability to move. 

Paraplegia and quadriplegia are two common types of paralysis caused by spinal cord injuries. Those suffering from paraplegia will experience paralysis below the waist, impacting the waist, legs, and sexual function, although the severity will be experienced differently from patient to patient, according to Recovery is rare, but intensive physical therapy can be helpful. Individuals afflicted with quadriplegia are affected from the neck down, generally impacting all limbs and torso. Quadriplegia resulting from spinal cord injuries are primarily due to intense contact sports like football, car accidents, and violent assaults.

There is still no cure for spinal cord injuries, as there's currently no way to regenerate the spinal cord. Still, Professor Courtine hopes that implant therapy can be combined with nerve regeneration one day once those treatments become available (via BBC).