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Man can grip a ball after nerve rewiring  (Source: Washington University)
Researchers connected undamaged nerves to damaged nerves in order to help a patient regain movement in his hands

Washington University researchers have managed to rewire the nerves of a paralyzed patient, allowing him to use his hands again.

Ida Fox, case study leader and assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Washington University, along with a team of researchers, have connected undamaged nerves to damaged nerves in order to help a patient regain movement in his hands.

A 71-year-old male patient was in a car accident in 2008 that crushed the C7 vertebrae in his spinal cord. This allowed for some movement in his elbows, shoulders and arms, but completely cut off communication between brain signals and hand movements, meaning that his hands were paralyzed.

To solve this problem, Fox and the team of researchers decided to use nerve transfer therapy. This means that nearby nerves that had not been injured in the accident could be cut, connected to a damaged nerve, and then used to stimulate activity in the hands again.

To do this, Fox cut an undamaged nerve that was responsible for the brachialis, which is an arm muscle that helps bend the elbow. This nerve was reattached to the damaged nerve responsible for hand movement, and this was enough to activate small movement in the patient's hands once again. However, the patient had to relearn how to use the nerve in a different way over time.

"The brain has to be trained to think, 'OK, I used to bend my elbow with this nerve, and now I use it to pinch,'" said Fox. "We're not changing any of the biomechanics; we're just changing the wiring. So it's more of a mental game that patients have to play with themselves."

As it turns out, the patient was able to write a little bit and feed himself after months of physical therapy.

This method of nerve rewiring could be used to treat patients with C7 and C6 vertebra injuries because the nerves are attached to the spinal cord directly above the injury. However, those with C5 to C1 vertebra injuries could not benefit from such a surgery because of the location of the nerves.

Source: Medical Daily

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nerve tech
By Hafgrim on 5/17/2012 2:09:00 PM , Rating: 2
This sounds great for stroke victims whos nerves are still intact and could benefit the most from this I think.

I have two friends with paralysed left sides that would love to try this out to be able to use their left arms again.

Can this be used for stroke victims or is their some downside such as a feed back loop to the stroke damaged part of the brain that would cause problems?? ..If not this sounds perfect for stroke victims!

RE: nerve tech
By Hafgrim on 5/17/2012 2:24:08 PM , Rating: 2
Never mind I see the patient had some use of both his elbows which is what allowed doctors to re-wire that elbow nerve at the elbow to his hand nerve. So unless a patient has some movement somewhere on the arm doctors still havnt figured out how to crosswire from higher up in the body such as at the spine yet. =(

So close yet so far.

RE: nerve tech
By havoti97 on 5/18/2012 10:22:10 PM , Rating: 2
In the case of a stroke, the signal pathways (nerves) are ok, but the controller center (brain) is damaged. In fact, it sounds like the whole side of the brain is damaged in your friend's case). The only way for this technique to work for your friend is to take some nerves on the undamaged side and cross them over to the other side of the body, and then attach them to the nerves/muscle. Highly improbably with today's technology.

By Motoman on 5/17/2012 9:57:48 AM , Rating: 4
Sweet. Now the codger can throw things at the kids on his lawn again.

Video Sums it up nicely
By sirah on 5/17/2012 10:09:24 AM , Rating: 2
On April 12, 2011, nearly 15 years after she became paralyzed and unable to speak, one of the subjects controlled a robotic arm by thinking about moving her arm and hand to lift a bottle of coffee to her mouth and take a drink. That achievement is one of the advances in brain-computer interfaces, restorative neurotechnology and assistive robot technology described in Nature by the BrainGate2 collaboration of researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Brown University, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the German Aerospace Center. A 58-year-old woman and a 66-year-old man participated in the study. They had each been paralyzed by a stroke years earlier, which left them with no functional control of their limbs

RE: Video Sums it up nicely
By alexwgreen on 5/17/2012 12:17:44 PM , Rating: 2
Saw that on the news last night, though it's quite different to the workaround described in the article above.

Both are without a doubt impressive.

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