Major spine injuries can cause paralysis. Patients have to go through extensive treatment and therapies, but many argue that a lot of these efforts remain unrewarded as many paralysed people do not recover. Now a new study from the University of Helsinki revealed that a novel repeated stimulation can, in fact, restore movement in paralysed muscles.
This research was conducted in the Helsinki University Hospital. Two patients with spinal cord injuries received a form of treatment that combined transcranial magnetic stimulation with simultaneous peripheral nerve stimulation. This therapy lasted for about six months. Although it may seem to be a usual procedure, it was the first time ever it has been attempted. Both patients had been injured more than two years ago and had received conventional rehabilitation treatments throughout their recovery.
Before this novel therapy began, one patient was paralysed from the knees down and another was tetraplegic – he could move hands, but could not grab things. After six months the first patient could move both ankles and another one could grasp things. This amazing achievement opens possibilities for new therapies to be developed even further and to help many patients with similar conditions from around the world.
Anastasia Shulga, lead authors of the study, said that they could observe strengthened neural connections and, later, partial restoration of movement, which was previously impossible. These effects were sustainable too, as even one month after the restored movement was still present.
Dr. Jyrki Mäkelä, head of the BioMag laboratory, where the research was conducted, said: “Further study is needed to confirm whether long-term paired associative stimulation can be used in rehabilitation after spinal cord injury by itself and, possibly, in combination with other therapeutic strategies”.
Scientists are continuing their research in order to see what can be achieved if therapy is being applied for longer. In fact, one of the patients is still participating in the study. It will take some time for this novel treatment to be available in all the hospitals, but it does provide hope to thousands of people who are currently suffering from spinal cord injury induced paralysis.