Exciting trials led by Associate Professor Daniel Lu, from UCLA show remarkable improvements in gripping strength of people with spinal cord injuries.
One of the patients that Professor Lu has been treating is Brian Gomez. Gomez injured his spinal cord during a riding accident in 2011. The accident left him paralysed from the neck down and with limited gripping ability. Then three years ago, Gomez had tiny electrodes implanted into his spinal cord. When the electrodes are activated, Gomez is able to close his hand and grip objects.
Since beginning the trials Gomez’s gripping strength has gone from less than 1 Newton force to an average of 22 newtons, enough to crack an egg!
Professor Lu’s approach builds on the work of renowned UCLA neuroscientist, Professor Reggie Edgerton. The treatment works to redraws neural connections in the damaged area, essentially reminding the cord of what it once did. “It’s retraining that circuit to work again,” says Lu. When the electrodes are turned off, it can still remember.