Tag: Susan Harkema
Electrical stimulation has promised huge gains for people with paralysis. Now comes the hard part — getting beyond those first steps.
Rob Summers was flat on his back at a rehabilitation institute in Kentucky when he realized he could wiggle his big toe. Up, down, up, down. This was new — something he hadn’t been able to do since a hit-and-run driver left him paralysed from the chest down. When that happened four years earlier, doctors had told him that he would never move his lower body again. Now he was part of a pioneering experiment to test the power of electrical stimulation in people with spinal-cord injuries.
Kent Stephenson is on a treadmill, working to put one foot in front of the other as a team of trainers helps guide his legs. There’s a harness holding him upright, but Stephenson is, in a sense, walking again — 10 years after a motocross accident left him paralyzed.
“Going off the face of a jump, my motor locked up and I tried to jump away from the bike. It didn’t work for me, I landed and cartwheeled, somersaults and everything,” Stephenson says. “I pretty much knew instantly that I couldn’t move my legs.”
Until now, it was believed that paralysis resulting from spinal cord injury was irreversible. In her provocative talk, Susan Harkema shares breakthrough research showing amazing functionality of the spinal cord, giving people with paralysis new reason for hope.
Two research participants living with traumatic, motor complete spinal cord injury are able to walk over ground thanks to epidural stimulation paired with daily locomotor training. In addition, these and two other participants achieved independent standing and trunk stability when using the stimulation and maintaining their mental focus.
The research, conducted at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center at the University of Louisville, was published online early and will appear in the Sept. 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Patients with severe spinal cord injury (SCI) often experience chronically low blood pressure that negatively affects their health, their quality of life, and their ability to engage in rehabilitative therapy.
“People with severe spinal cord injury – especially when it occurs in a higher level in the spine – have problems with blood pressure regulation to the point that it becomes the main factor affecting quality of life for them,” said Glenn Hirsch, M.D., professor of cardiology at the University of Louisville (UofL). “Some cannot even sit up without passing out. They are forced to use medications, compression stockings, or abdominal binders to maintain an adequate blood pressure.”
A research participant at the University of Louisville with a complete spinal cord injury, who had lost motor function below the level of the injury, has regained the ability to move his legs voluntarily and stand six years after his injury.
A study published today in Scientific Reports describes the recovery of motor function in a research participant who previously had received long-term activity-based training along with spinal cord epidural stimulation (scES). In the article, senior author Susan Harkema, Ph.D., professor and associate director of the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC) at the University of Louisville, and her colleagues report that over the course of 34.5 months following the original training, the participant recovered substantial voluntary lower-limb motor control and the ability to stand independently without the use of scES.
Newswise — Balance is an essential component of daily life, something many of us take for granted. But not everyone can. In the United States alone, there are about 300,000 people living with spinal cord injury (SCI) and some 12,000 new SCI cases each year, most of them young adults, 80% of them men. The recovery of motor functions—walking, standing, and balance—after a SCI is slow and limited, can be highly variable, and can take months or even years. The cost of care for SCI patients is enormous—annually over $3 billion. Studies have shown, however, that activity-based interventions offer a promising approach, and Sunil Agrawal, professor of mechanical engineering and of rehabilitation and regenerative medicine at Columbia Engineering, is at the forefront of research efforts to improve recovery through the development of novel robotic devices and interfaces that help patients retrain their movements.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In what’s being hailed as a breakthrough in spinal cord injury research, four men paralyzed from the chest down have risen from their wheelchairs on their own volition and effort.
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It all started with a single toe. Even today, Dr. Susan Harkema recalls the words spoken by one of the research participants: “Look Susie, I can move my toe.” The patient’s name was Rob Summers and he was completely paralyzed from the neck down. After a car accident he was told he would never be able to walk again. But just a few weeks after Harkema had implanted an electrical stimulator wired to the spinal cord, the unthinkable suddenly became reality. Rob slowly started to move his limbs.
(CNN) — At her research lab at the University of Louisville, neuroscientist Susan Harkema turned her back to her study subject to check a reading on a computer screen.
“Hey Susie, look at this,” the patient called out to her. “I can move my toe!”
Startled, Harkema spun around. The purpose of her study, which involves sending electrical stimulation to broken spinal cords, was to learn more about nerve pathways, not to actually make patients move.
That must be an involuntary spasm, she thought. She asked the patient, Rob Summers, to lie down and close his eyes and follow her commands.
“Move your left toe,” she said to him — and he did. “Move your right toe,” she asked — and he did.
Holy s***!” she yelled out loud.