An announcement at Frazier Rehabilitation Institute is sending shockwaves through the spinal cord injury community. Andrew Meas, a 32-year old man who sustained a complete spinal cord injury in a motorcycle crash in 2006 is showing the world he can voluntarily move his legs. It is the culmination of a 44-month long research project involving electrical stimulation and extensive therapy led by Dr. Susan Harkema, Director of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network (NRN).
In 2018 NeuroHope of Indiana will become a proud member of the NRN, and 1 of 11 sites in the world collecting data its data.
In 2012, Meas was one of four individuals that Harkema and her team implanted with an electronic device. A stimulator was placed directly on his spinal cord that sent signals straight to his central nervous system. The researchers called it epidural stimulation, and the results made global headlines in 2014. They found that when the stimulation was turned on, VOLUNTARY movement occurred in all four individuals – a totally unexpected result.
In the three years since, Meas has been participating in aggressive rehabilitation and further research using a combination of stimulation from his implanted device and high-speed treadmill training. All of which led to the exciting announcement that after years of training, VOLUNTARY movement has occurred even with the stimulation device turned OFF!
Dr. Harkema and Andrew Meas talk about the findings in the video below:
Dr. Harkema’s work is based on the physiology of the spinal cord and its capacity to “remember” and recover. She has brought her ideas to the Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network (NRN), a collaboration of rehabilitation centers that focus on exploring the treatment of neurologic injury through activity-based therapies – a very specific form of task-specific interventions below the injury level.
In 2018, NeuroHope will become the 11th NRN affiliate in the world, and one of only 4 independent sites outside of a major rehabilitation hospital system. NRN sites continue to build upon Dr. Harkema’s work in electrical stimulation by exclusively incorporating Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) into some treatment plans. NMES is non-invasive stimulation that uses electrodes on the skin at exclusive parameters to target the central nervous system.
In the coming months NeuroHope staff will be trained directly by Dr. Harkema and her team in the activity-based interventions the NRN performs. We will be sending data to the NRN, as well as collecting outcome and patient satisfaction measures with a researchers from the University of Indianapolis.
The success of the epidural stimulation implant in Andrew Meas and the work of the NRN provides new knowledge and a new diving off point for future discoveries in treating – and someday curing – spinal cord injury. It is an exciting time for neurologic research, and we are honored to be a part of it!