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Two Paralyzed Patients Able To Walk Again Thanks To Spine Implant

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Two patients who were told that they would never walk again are beating the odds with the help of a spinal cord implant and intensive therapy.

The treatment, carried out by researchers at the University of Louisville, is still improving, which is good news for other patients who have suffered spinal cord injuries.

Paralyzed Walk Again With Help Of Spinal Cord Implant

Kelly Thomas was inside a truck when it flipped in 2014. Jeff Marquis, meanwhile, was involved in a mountain biking accident. Both of them were told that they will never be able to walk on their own again.

However, new treatment from the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center at the University of Louisville has helped Thomas and Marquis take steps once more. The method, outlined in the New England Journal of Medicine, combines customized epidural spinal cord stimulation and intense training for standing and stepping.

Thomas' balance is still not perfect, and she requires a walker to guide her. However, she is now able to walk 100 yards on her own across grass, has gained muscle, and lost the nerve pain that has been bothering her foot since the accident.

Thomas is aided by a 16-electrode array that was implanted in her spinal cord to give it electrical stimulation. Combined with the training, the device has helped her walk again, which is something that she never thought would happen. 

"Something I was never supposed to do ever just happened. It was awesome. There's no other feeling like it in the world," Thomas said. She even now calls the implant in her spine "Junior."

Forms Of Paralysis Treatment

The method created by the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center is far from finished. Thomas and Marquis, while not able to move their lower bodies, had some sensation. Two other patients did not progress as far as them, but that is likely because they started with no sensation at all in their lower bodies. However, the two patients are now able to stand, move their legs, and step on treadmills, raising the possibility that further training will get them walking again.

There have been various attempts over the years in determining how to treat spinal injuries, including studying snake genes, stem cell therapy, and a regenerative compound. However, with Thomas and Marquis already walking, all eyes in the medical field will be on the technique formulated by the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center.

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