Paraplegic Walks With Electrode Treatment

Spinal cord treatment awakens damaged nervous system
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2011 4:25 AM CDT
This 2010 photo shows Summers, center, receiving intensive physical therapy in Louisville, Ky.    (AP Photo/Courtesy of Rob Summers)

(Newser) – A young man paralyzed from the chest down after a car accident 5 years ago has become the first person with his condition ever to stand up. Rob Summers, 25, can stand, move his hips, and even take a few steps thanks to an experimental treatment that involves stimulation of the spinal cord with implanted electrodes, reports the Los Angeles Times. Summers has also regained some bladder and sexual function from the treatment, which researchers hope will one day be able to help up to 15% of people with spinal cord injuries.

Stimulation of the spinal cord helped wake up the portions of the nervous system still intact after the accident, researchers say. "This procedure has completely changed my life,” says Summers, who was an Oregon State University championship pitcher before the accident. “For someone who for 4 years was unable to even move a toe, to have the freedom and ability to stand on my own is the most amazing feeling." Summers, the first person to undergo the treatment, went through two years of intensive training and trial and error after the device was implanted.

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