Novel spinal injury rehabilitation procedures (impact case study)

The prevalence of spinal cord injuries is estimated to be between 236 and 1009 per million worldwide.

Spinal cord injuries are the second most common cause of paralysis, with highly significant impacts on the quality of life for the patient and also in the cost to health care services. There is currently no approved treatment for recovery of the ability to walk in spinal injury patients with severe lesions.

Research carried out by Dr Ichiyama from the Faculty of Biological Sciences, in collaboration with colleagues at University of California Los Angeles in the United States, has led to the development of a rehabilitation training regime people with spinal cord injuries causing complete paralysis to walk again.

This has been achieved through a specific combination of exercise training, drug treatment and novel epidural electrical stimulation of the spinal cord. The results attracted significant levels of attention worldwide, and a Research Centre in the USA applied the regime to several completely paralysed patients, with the result that the patients recovered the ability to stand and move their legs voluntarily.

Dr Ichiyama continues to carry out research to further understand the processes that are taking place to enable spinal cord regeneration, and he is working with UK healthcare providers to set up facilities to enable this treatment to be carried out in the UK.