They discover the neurons that allow walking again after a spinal cord injury


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A new study published by the journal Nature has been a breakthrough in research related to people with chronic spinal cord injuries. The study carried out by scientists from the Swiss NeuroRestone center, demonstrated how nine paralyzed patients return to regain mobility thanks to an epidural electrical stimulation treatment.

In this essay, nine patients with severe or complete paralysis, caused by spinal cord injury, immediately recovered or improved their ability to walk. In addition, these individuals showed improvements in mobility after five months of epidural electrical stimulation treatment. “The study has a high scientific quality. Demonstrates the positive effects that epidural electrostimulation therapy has in patients with spinal cord injury”, assesses Juan de los Reyes Aguilar, researcher in charge of the Experimental Neurophysiology and Neural Circuits Group of the National Hospital for Paraplegics in Toledo.

With this study, it has been possible to identify the type of neuron that is activated and remodeled by stimulation of the spinal cord, allowing patients to walk. Those responsible for the research verified how, while the patients were stimulated while walking, neuronal activity decreased as they walked.

“It is essential for neuroscientists to be able to understand the specific role that each neuronal subpopulation plays in a complex activity such as walking. Our new study is providing us with valuable information about the reorganization process of neurons in the spinal cord,” says Jocelyne Bloch, one of the people in charge of the research.

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As the results show, treatment does not work in the same way in patients with incomplete or complete spinal cord injury. That is, patients with incomplete spinal cord injury can recover function autonomously, while patients with complete injury can only walk again when they receive epidural stimulation.

This new study has a high scientific quality. The authors responsible for the research not only provide the scientific details, but also demonstrate how the individual evolution of treatment in each patient. “This offers a real vision of the effectiveness of the therapy in the best cases and the possibility that in others it does not provide benefits”, explains de los Reyes Aguilar.

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It is a breakthrough for related research in patients with chronic spinal cord injuries. However, those responsible point out that more studies are needed to verify the existence of other neurons in the brain and spinal cord that contribute to the recovery of these patients.

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