Two University of Louisville professors have received a $6.3 million grant to continue their work helping paralyzed patients restore movement by using electrical stimulation. The grant was awarded to Susan Harkema and Dr. Jonathan Hodes from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. Last year, they received much acclaim when they published a study in the journal The Lancet "showing that the use of continual, direct, electrical stimulation of a patient's lower spinal cord using technology designed for pain relief can allow a person using a wheelchair to stand and bear weight," reports Laura Ungar for The Courier-Journal.
With these new grant funds, Harkema said they will "be able to built a stimulator that will allow the individual to take advantage of these advances in their homes and communities."
One of the initial case studies involved Rob Summers, a former baseball player from Oregon who was paralyzed below the chest after a car accident. After the therapy, he was able to get to a standing position and stand as long as four minutes. "He was also able to take steps with help and move his toes, ankles, knees and hips." Harkema said he continues to improve.
Nationwide, more than 5 million Americans live with some type of paralysis, and more than 1.3 million have spinal-cord injuries.