U of L launches groundbreaking study on spinal cord injuries

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new University of Louisville School of Medicine study, in which it will test epidural stimulation for people who are paralyzed.

“The new science really is that the spinal cord itself is just as smart as the brain,” said Dr. Susan Harkema with the U of L Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center.

Researchers are searching for 36 participants suffering from spinal cord injuries to be a part of the study. Each person will have a device implanted above their spinal cord. Through that device, electricity then triggers their nervous systems.

Researchers said this stimulation helps bodies re-learn how to feel, move, stand and improve cardiovascular functions.

“We’ve been able to take their blood pressure and bring it back to normal again,” Harkema said. “And some of these things are actually what impact the quality of life even more than not being able to stand or walk.”

Harkema has already seen results. She said some people have regained some feeling and have been able to stand or control their movements. Harkema has also seen people’s hearts strengthen and blood pressure normalize.

Researchers hope the study will show whether or not this stimulation can be turned into a clinical treatment. And by studying the effects on the most severe spinal cord injuries, they expect it will help those with less severe injuries as well.

This will be the largest study on this topic in the world. U of L is currently screening potential candidates for the six-year study. Each person would enroll for two years. If you are interested in participating, click here.

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