Can Future Treatments for Spinal Cord Injuries Reduce Paralysis?

Photo of Doctor examining patient's spinal X-Rays

The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center estimates more than 282,000 Americans are living with spinal cord injuries. Depending on the nature of a spinal cord injury, living independently can be difficult or impossible. Treatments for spinal cord injuries focus on improving this lack of independence.

Neuroprosthetics is one area of research that may soon help people achieve greater independence. A person with a spinal cord injury has a part of his or her nervous system cut off from the brain. The field of neuroprosthetics involves supplanting these “cut off” functions of the nervous system to restore movement.

In a recent study published by the journal Nature, researchers used brain and spinal cord implants to help paralyzed monkeys walk. The brain implant picks up signals when limbs want to move in a certain way. These signals are sent to a nearby computer and decoded. From the computer, decoded signals travel to another implant in the spinal cord, giving paralyzed limbs directions to move

Similar experiments have been conducted on human beings, but none have involved wireless technology. Researchers involved with the Nature study hope to replicate the same results in paralyzed humans.

Why Spinal Cord Injuries Are Costly Injuries

It is not uncommon for people with spinal cord injuries to require home modifications or nursing services. Some may be moved to centers where they can receive round-the-clock care. Unfortunately, many families and individuals find these services are expensive.

One of the reasons you are likely to see higher economic and noneconomic damages in personal injury cases involving spinal cord injuries, is because home modification, lost income, psychological and medical costs are extensive. Future treatments for spinal cord injuries may mitigate these costs and give people suffering from paralysis an improved quality of life.