Spinal cord injuries often render victims unable to walk, changing their lives forever. But recent advancements in technology have given paralyzed patients hope that they can one day walk again.
Wearable Technology Provides Some Hope
Many patients who suffer spinal cord injuries either become quadriplegics (partial or total loss of use of their arms and legs), or paraplegics (partial or total loss of use of their legs and torso).
Spinal cord researchers are focused on restoring some use of a patient’s extremities to provide victims with a greater quality of life.
That was the goal behind the creation of the Ekso GT, the world’s first exoskeleton that has been FDA-approved for use with patients who have suffered spinal cord injuries or have suffered a stroke.
The Ekso GT was first developed for military use, and is a wearable robotic exoskeleton designed to help paralyzed patients regain some type of movement.
Per the Ekso Bionics website, the Ekso GT:
“…provides adaptive amounts of power to either side of the patient’s body, engaging the patient throughout his or her continuum of care. The technology provides the ability to mobilize patients early in their recovery, frequently, with a significant number of high intensity steps. To date, the Ekso has helped patients take more than 41 million steps in over 115 rehabilitation institutions around the world.”
Patients are strapped into the Ekso GT suit, which is powered by battery-operated motors that help engage the knee and hip joints.
The suit is equipped with smart technology that automatically adjusts power to make each session more challenging as a patient gets used to the device.
The technology was recently utilized at Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital in Santa Barbara, where Larry Bartley, a 62 year-old patient who is partially paralyzed after a 30-foot fall, was able to take more than 400 steps with the Ekso GT suit.
After multiple sessions with the Ekso GT, Bartley was able to take 300 steps without the suit, and with only the help of a walker and ankle braces.
Stem Cell Breakthrough
But the Ekso GT suit is not the only recent breakthrough in spinal cord injury treatment, as researchers have also found some success using stem cells.
Per SpinalCord.com, some studies with animals have found that transplanted stem cells can help repair spinal cord material that was damaged in an accident, and regenerate dead nerve cells, which triggers the growth of new motor axons.
With many spinal cord injuries, the nerve cells and motor axons that form the spinal cord are destroyed, which means that the brain and the spinal cord can no longer communicate with each other.
Stem cells are prized for their ability to self-generate and for the fact that they can duplicate the function of any cell within an organism.
Just last year, Dr. Arthur Jenkins, a New York surgeon, conducted an experimental trial in which he injected stem cells into the neck of quadriplegic patient James Mason, in an effort to restore some movement to his body. Six months after the surgery, Mason reported that he could feel pressure and sensation in his feet and that he had some movement in his hips.
While it’s too soon to make a direct link between the injected stem cells and Mason’s improvement, Dr. Jenkins believes the cells are the key.
“My two cents is it worked, that this actually changed his neurological recovery and function,” Jenkins stated. “That his actual functional improvement is from the stem cells that were injected.”
Providing Hope and Healing
If you’ve suffered a spinal cord injury and you believe you have a claim, please call the team of Rosner Law Offices, P.C. at (856) 692-6500 for a free legal consultation to see how we can help you obtain compensation to help offset your medical bills, and to provide you with peace of mind during this difficult time.