Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation newsletter 2010-02-18

Exciting breakthroughs are being reported in the fields of computer-assisted movement, bionics and treatment for spinal cord injury. A recent article in Parade magazine discussed clinical trials regarding mechanized leg braces for assisted ...

Exciting breakthroughs are being reported in the fields of computer-assisted movement, bionics and treatment for spinal cord injury.

A recent article in Parade magazine discussed clinical trials regarding mechanized leg braces for assisted walking. (To read Parade article, click here.) This technology, called ReWalk, was developed by Amit Goffer, an Israeli engineer and entrepreneur, who happens to be a paraplegic himself. Currently undergoing clinical trials in the United States, ReWalk may have the potential to enable a paraplegic to make his or her way more easily through the day.

An article in a recent issue of National Geographic magazine discussed clinical trials on "bionics". (To read National Geographic article, click here.) In these clinical trials, missing or ruined body parts are replaced by devices embedded in the subjects' nervous systems that respond to commands from their brains. The machines they use are called neural prostheses or, as scientists have become more comfortable with a term made popular by science fiction writers, bionics.

Meanwhile, other scientists work toward finding a way to reconnect severed nerves or to route around a damaged area of the spinal cord. Dr. Michael Sofroniew at UCLA and colleagues have used drugs and electrical stimulation in successful trials on paralyzed rats. (To read about Dr. Sofroniew's research, click here.)

Dr. Stephen Davies and his research team at the University of Colorado has achieved similar results with stem cells. (To read about Dr. Davies' research, click here.) To view a video interview with Dr. Davies, click here.) It is hoped and expected that these experiments will proceed to human clinical trials in the near future. Dr. Davies attended SSPF's Day at the Races event in Chicago last year and we are looking forward to working more closely with him in the future. We'll keep you posted!

The implications of these and other ongoing studies are exciting and marvelous. The process of taking an idea to the clinical trial stage is long, arduous and very expensive. These scientists deserve all the support we can give them.

However, attention should also be given to those who volunteer to participate as a subject in a clinical trial. As an able bodied person, picture volunteering to walk a high wire, when the purpose of the activity is not to test your own prowess but to test the strength of the high wire.

Of course, that analogy is far from accurate; it was offered just as something for you to think about. Clinical trials are conducted under strict guidelines and close supervision. But being a subject in a clinical trial does require dedicating significant time and hard work. Those who agree to participate as a subject in a clinical trial are not only looking to help themselves, but also to help others in their physical situation.

Especially notable in the stories about mechanically assisted walking and bionics is what the participants look forward to doing again someday. Those with spinal cord injury find themselves in a world filled with obstacles that most people don't notice, such as stairs, curbs and narrow doorways. Their hopes for the future of scientific advances are simple. They look forward to household chores being more easily completed and errands becoming less than major expeditions.

So we'd like to salute not only the scientists but also the participants. Everyone who contributes in their own way to the cause of finding new treatments and ultimately a cure for spinal cord injury has our sincere gratitude.

Just as you are doing your part, we are working hard to do our part. As staff and volunteers, we promise to do our best to further the work of the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation by extending research grants to scientists working on these issues, quality of life grants to organizations dedicated to improving daily life for those with disabilities, and by taking every opportunity to publicize the need to discover new treatments and ultimately a cure for spinal cord injury.

In future issues of this e-newsletter, we will highlight various Research Grants given - stay tuned!

-source: sam schmidt paralysis foundation

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