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Deep brain stimulation can restore mobility after spinal cord injurie

Thanks to a new technique of deep brain stimulation, the researchers were able to restore mobility of paralyzed rats. After an electrical and chemical stimulation of the nerve cells, the animals were able to walk and run independently.

Spinal injuries have severe consequences, since they often affect the spinal cord. A large proportion of spinal injuries are severe injuries, as a result of which almost 50% of people become disabled. Damage to the spinal cord due to head or neck injuries can lead to either partial or complete permanent paralysis. The consequences of the injury largely depend on the time interval from the injury itself to the beginning of the comprehensive treatment. The treatment of such injuries is a complex and very long process that requires not only competent specialists, but also patient’s physical and moral strength. The nature of the paralysis (complete or partial) mainly depends on the location of the injury.When assessing the patient's condition, providing first aid and carrying out the first diagnostic measures, the specialists can outline the further prognosis of the course of the disease and its consequences. Currently, there are many methods of recovery after such injuries ranging from the use of mirrors as a stimulating factor up to the injection of stem cells into the damaged area.

In the course of one of the latest studies, scientists developed another technique, which eventually allowed restoration of mobility in paralyzed rats. This method is based on deep brain stimulation. In this case, the electric impulses reach a certain area located in the stem, the lower part of the brain, which is the key part of the central nervous system. The brain stem regulates the performance of sensitive (sensory), motor (somatic) and vegetative (parasympathetic) functions. The nerve fibers, which deliver the signal from the brain to the rest of the body, including motor commands and sensitivity, pass through the spinal cord. Depending on the severity of the injury, the nerve fibers become damaged suffering either complete or partial rupture.

The technique of deep brain stimulation is not fundamentally new and is already used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, dystonia, multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders. However, previously it has not been used in the treatment of consequences of the spinal cord injury.

Specialists have studied severe forms of the injuries on the example of rats in the research lab. Those who had 20-30% of healthy tissues managed to restore their motor activity, while those rats with less than 10% of the fibers remained intact, were completely paralyzed and could perform a minimum set of movements when swimming. The scientists suggested that it is deep stimulation that can help in case of complete paralysis by affecting the nerve fibers and their structure in the spinal cord. Even with the most serious damages, some of the nerve fibers remain unaffected. Their activation through electrical and chemical stimulation can regain control over the movement of the animal. On the example of rats, the scientists have managed to achieve the first positive results. They believe that this method combined with physiotherapy can restore the motor activity in 50% of patients who are now forced to remain in wheelchairs.

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