A neurosurgeon from Vanderbilt University is seeking patients with paraplegia to conduct a study on whether intraspinal microstimulation technology can restore complex body movements.

Peter Konrad, MD, PhD, and his research team are investigating whether the implantation of tiny electrodes in the spinal cord could help humans to walk.

The requirements for patients to participate are very specific. The participants must be undergoing a previously scheduled spinal surgery for a reason other than the experiment. And they should have a completely severed spinal cord between the thoracic 3 and thoracic 8 vertebrae without further damage below that point, according to a media release from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“I want absolutely no question that we are creating the movement and that there is no accidental circuitry input,” Konrad, a professor of neurosurgery at Vanderbilt, says in the release.

Konrad is looking to do the proof of concept experiment with two patients before seeking to expand the study. Joseph Cheng, MD, director of the Neurosurgery Spine Program, is overseeing the data safety and monitoring of the study, the release adds.

“This is such a landmark study, and one which has the potential to help paralyzed people walk again,” Cheng says in the release.

“Even at this early stage, I feel the concept of intraspinal microstimulation has shown the best promise at this time for our patients who suffer from paraplegia. I think whoever volunteers for this study will be leading the way for those suffering with paraplegia, and who really have no other options for treatment,” Cheng continues.

Konrad adds that nothing will be implanted in patients.

“We are just going to test the concept in the spinal cords of paralyzed people coming in for another reason for surgery,” he states in the release.

[Source(s): Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Science Daily]