Paralysis Treatment Programs Could Be Introduced In Australia As Early As Next Year

Australians living with spinal cord injuries could have access to life-changing experimental research programs in neurostimulation as early as 2019. 

SpinalCure Australia who promote research for a cure to spinal cord injuries said it has been raising funds for the establishment of research programs into electrical implants for some time and were hoping to see programs up and running in 2019.

The organisation told ten daily it identified neurostimulation as the intervention most likely to bring significant benefits to those with chronic spinal cord injuries in the shortest time.

"Neurostimulation treatments have the potential to bring huge improvements to the quality of life of these people in the relatively near future," SpinalCure Australia said in a statement.

"Every day an accident results in another Australian being paralysed by a spinal cord injury. Their life and lives of their loved ones will be shattered."

Research shows while neurostimulation improves physical movement, experiments have also found other improvements for people with spinal cord injuries such as bladder and bowel control, sexual function and maintenance of body temperature.

The organisation said while there is always a risk with any intervention requiring surgery, these types of implanted devices have been used to treat chronic back pain for several years so surgeons have a good deal of experience.

"An exciting  development in neurostimulation research has seen encouraging results produced by non-invasive stimulators, using electrodes placed on the skin, thus eliminating the dangers and costs of surgery," the organisation said.

An electrical stimulator at the base of the spine uses electrical signals that appear to awaken injured nerve pathways. Image: CBS NEWS

CEO of SpinalCure Australia Duncan Wallace told ten daily the organisation had played  a pivotal role in introducing the research to Australia.

"These results out of the United States are extremely exciting and we believe neurostimulation will be the first intervention to bring life changing improvements to many people living with chronic spinal cord injuries," Wallace said.

 "This is further evidence that a cure for spinal cord injury is possible and now only a matter of time and of course, funding."

The news comes after two U.S. studies pointed to significant progress in helping paralysed people stand and take steps again.

Jeff Marquis was paralyzed in a biking accident. Image: CBS/Jeff Marquis

Jeff Marquis who has been paralysed from the chest down since 2011  following a bike accident, was part of a study which implanted an experimental electrical stimulator into the base of his spine.

Following months of intensive physical training Marquis was able to start moving his legs again.

READ MORE: Experimental Device Helps Paralysed Man Walk The Length Of Four Football Fields

He walked the length of one football field without rest, and then almost a quarter of a mile over a one-hour session.

"It's certainly a welcome change from being in a chair all the time and kind of a ray of sunshine in my prognosis," Marquis told CBS.

Marquis said he now has more energy and no longer needs daily help at home. Researchers now hope to perform larger studies with more patients.

But this technology is still years away from wide scale use.

With CBS.  Featured Image: CBS