• The journal ‘Nature’ publishes the results of a clinical trial on spinal cord stimulation in patients with chronic upper trunk muscle weakness

Two women who had developed a chronic muscle weakness after suffering a stroke have achieved regain much of your mobility in arms and hands after undergoing a novel spinal cord stimulation therapy. It is an experimental treatment that, according to its promoters, is already giving good results in clinical trials and that, in the future, could be used to facilitate recovery of people who suffer the sequelae of a stroke.

Treatment consists of a pair of metal electrodes the size and shape of spaghetti that are implanted along the patient’s neck. Its installation allows stimulate the spinal cord and connect a series of neural circuits that were damaged by the stroke. This is the same type of technology that has been used in experimental studies to help patients who have lost mobility in other legs. Its use has given rise to encouraging results, but until now, there has hardly been a test for recover motor function of arms and hands.

As explained by the researcher marco caprogrosso In an article published this Monday in the scientific journal ‘Nature Medicine’, the first clinical trials With this tool focused on patients with mobility problems in the upper trunk, they point to good efficacy. Its use has been Tested on two women from the USA, aged 31 and 47 respectively, who suffered from chronic muscle weakness in the arms and hands after suffering a stroke. In one case, one of the patients wore years without being able to even hold a fork and knife With his hands.

immediate improvements

After implantation of the electrodes and initiation of therapy, patients experienced a instant improvement of your mobility. both improved strength, range of motion, and function both his arms and his hands. As explained Heather RendulicThanks to this therapy, one of the patients used in this study has been able to hold a can of soup in her hands: a gesture she had not been able to do for years after almost completely losing control of her wrist. In other of the tests carried out, the participants also achieved performing tasks of different complexity such as moving a metal cylinder, grasping common household objects, or picking a lock.

«Electrical stimulation of the spinal cord allows patients to move in ways they could not without stimulation»

«We found that electrical stimulation of specific regions of the spinal cord allows patients move in ways they could not do without stimulation«, highlights the team of researchers who have led this study. One of the most surprising results of this study is that, after several weeks of therapy, some of the improvements observed were maintained even after the electrodes were switched off. This, according to the experts, opens the door to using this electrode therapy as a method to train the muscles of people who have suffered a loss of mobility in order to achieve «better, stronger results in the long term».

movement control

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But how exactly does this therapy work? According to the researcher Douglas Weber, one of the experts who led this study, «the stimulation of the sensory nerves of the arms and hands allows amplify the activity of weakened muscles by a stroke.» «Throughout this entire process, patients retain full control of their movements, since the stimulation is supportive and strengthens muscle activation only when patients try to move», the scientist points out after the publication of this study.

«Patients retain full control of their movements»

Following the success of this first clinical study, the researchers envision continue investigating the application of this therapy in more patients. The scientists wait to be able to develop a «practical and easy to use» protocol that one day it can be transferred to hospitals around the world to help patients in need.