Amazing New Spinal Cord Implant Revives Paralyzed Man’s Legs

National   Rebecca Downs   Apr 11, 2014   |   4:14PM    Washington, DC

Improvement is generally thought of in a positive light. Medical technology has improved to help people’s lives in all sorts of ways.Least of all medical technology has helped to provide a window into the womb through the ultrasound. But there is also a downside to technology.

The unborn with disabilities, such as Down Syndrome, have been targeted through prenatal testing. And while this kind of knowledge before a child’s birth may provide helpful insights for parents, moms are saying that they don’t even want the option of knowing.

But while medical technology has been used against those with disabilities, it has also been used to improve the quality of life for those with such conditions. This is the kind technology we need more of, that which affirms and protects life.

Four men who were completely paralyzed below the waist are now able to move their legs, toes and lift up to 100 kilograms with their legs. These men are part of a group who have received electrical implants which have “reawakened” their spinal cords.

New Scientist explains how the breakthrough technology works:

paralyzedThe device – an array of electrodes – is implanted not at the point of injury, but in the still intact lumbosacral region of the spinal cord, which is the main information hub linking the brain to the lower limbs. Despite being crushed, Angeli says, the spinal cord and its associated nerve connections retain huge capacity to continue sending messages.

Angeli says the implant restores what in healthy people would be the resting potential of the spinal cord – the baseline electrical activity that keeps the cord alert, but which wanes through lack of use in people who are paralysed.

Once this background electrical impetus is restored artificially, the cord reawakens and can register the brain’s “intent” to move and convert this into fine movement at the motor neuron level. And by modulating the voltage for each individual and for each task, algorithms that optimise delivery of electrical activity for specific movements can be worked out and applied at will by the patients.

Claudia Angeli, of the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center at the University of Louisville mentions that, with emphasis added,  “[t]here’s not been anything like this, and no hope previously for the most severely injured patients, so this is a very important step forward for them.”

Another improvement from the implants is that all men have recovered, to varying degrees, their bladder, bowel and sexual function. Roderic Pettigrew, director of the US National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering in Bethesda, Maryland, mentions “[t]hat really restores dignity.”

All people, regardless of disability, have dignity. Though Pettigrew does has a point in how medical technology used for good can protect life and restore dignity and worth that may have been forgotten due to a condition.

The improvement of medical technology can provide hope for those who had none for their condition. We need not be certain that there is never hope for improvement or a cure with disabilities. Breakthroughs are happening in ways which would have once been thought “unthinkable.”

Parents faced with the diagnosis of a disability for their unborn child need not turn to abortion as their only choice. And those faced with disabilities later in their lives need not give up the thought of living a happy, healthy and productive life.

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Doctors may portray that there is no hope with a diagnosis for those with disabilities. While professionals, doctors do not know everything. The spinal cord implants are considered a breakthrough in their own light, and there may certainly be more improvements to come. The unborn child and the disabled adult are worthy of life. As human beings they deserve to live with hope. And regardless of their condition, they may live their life with the dignity we are all entitled to.

LifeNews Note: Rebecca Downs is a graduate from Fordham University, where she was involved in the Respect for Life and College Republican clubs. She has written for various pro-life sources, including Live Action News, C-FAM, Secular Pro-Life Perspectives and Juicy Ecumenism. Her particular passion includes politics and she has rallied at the U.S. Supreme Court for pro-life cases. She hopes to attend law school in the future.