U of L researchers use electrical implant to help paraplegics mo - WDRB 41 Louisville News

U of L researchers use electrical implant to help paraplegics move

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- University of Louisville scientists are part of groundbreaking research that is helping paralyzed patients regain function in their legs.

Doctors researching spinal cord injuries revealed their success with an experimental treatment on four patients.

The four men have been paralyzed for years and are now able to move their legs using an epidural electrical stimulation of the spinal cord.

When the implanted device is activated, the patients can wiggle their toes, lift their legs and stand briefly.

Dustin Shillcox as has been paralyzed from the chest down since a car accident injured his spine in 2010.

And when he turns on the electrical device: "Wow! There you go. Oh my gosh."

He can move on demand.

The stimulation mimics the signals the brain normally transmits to initiate movement.

When the stimulator is turned off, Shillcox can't even sit up because his torso muscles won't allow him to.

But when he turns it on, Shillcox can sit up without any support at all.

"The first time I turned it on it was exciting and emotional for me at the same time. Emotional because I was told that I'd never be able to walk or move my legs again," he said.

An international team of scientists at the University of Louisville took part in the study, and released their results Tuesday in the medical journal Brain.

Experts say this technique may become a groundbreaking tool.

"I think what's incredibly exciting is we've open up a realm of possibilities of what we can do now with people who are paralyzed and we've just scratched the surface," said U of L neuroscientist Susan Harkema.

Scientists at University of Louisville and UCLA worked on the procedure.

The research was funded in part by the Christopher Reeve Foundation.

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