In a groundbreaking study, researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) have identified the nerve cells that are altered in response to a spinal cord stimulation technique that restores walking ability in patients with severe spinal cord injury. The study involved nine patients who saw their walking ability immediately improve after the stimulation was switched on. Some of the patients were able to retain improved motor function even after the stimulation was silenced. This suggests that lasting changes are being made to the function of neurons in the spinal cord that underlie these incredible recoveries.
The researchers were able to identify the specific groups of neurons that were targeted by the stimulation treatment by using advanced light-based stimulation techniques and mapping gene activity in mice with similar spinal cord injuries. They found that a group of excitatory lumbar interneurons, expressing a gene called Vsx2, were critical to the mice’s restored walking ability. These same neurons were not needed by healthy mice to walk without stimulation.
At Elihu Institute for Pain Management, we are committed to providing our patients with the latest and most effective treatments for chronic pain. We are excited to see the potential of spinal cord stimulation techniques in the treatment of severe spinal cord injury, and we will continue to monitor developments in this field to provide our patients with the best possible care.