Clinical trial aiming to help people with spinal cord injuries walk again underway.
A landmark international trial has begun, with the lead site in Sydney, Australia, to help people with incomplete spinal cord injuries walk again.
Primarily funded and initiated by SpinalCure Australia with help from CatWalk Trust NZ and SCIA, the eWALK trial began with the first two participants in June this year. The trial aims to harness the power of neuroplasticity to restore the function of the remaining spinal nerves.
The therapy, neurostimulation, sends electrical impulses through electrodes that sit on the skin’s surface over the spinal cord. When it is coupled with step and walking training in people with chronic paraplegia, the therapy helps to rewire the neural pathways that have been impaired.
“Neurostimulation is like a hearing aid for the spinal cord. The idea is that tailored electrical currents can amplify messages transmitted via surviving neural pathways, thereby enhancing communication between the brain and the body,” said Professor Simon Gandevia. Gandevia is the study lead and Deputy Director of Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), the research institute leading the trial.
Three people have participated in the trial so far in Sydney. Chicago, Glasgow and Toledo are the international trial sites, with participants projected to begin early next year.
In studies overseas, people with complete injuries have also had life-changing improvements. In addition to movement, there is potential to restore autonomic functions such as bladder, bowel, temperature control, blood pressure stability, breathing and more.
This study is the world’s first double-blind, randomised, clinically-controlled trial of spinal neurostimulation, which is an important step in gaining approval for wider community rollout if successful.
Unlike many other studies, the neurostimulation equipment used is external rather than implanted, making it much more cost-effective and straightforward to ensure access for everyone who may need it.
SpinalCure is calling on governments and the community to help fund a more comprehensive research study on a range of injuries and bodily functions.
To find out more, visit spinalcure.org.au/eWalk