Paralyzed Man Moves Freely with Help of Implant

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With the help of groundbreaking new medical research, one man has proved his doctors wrong -- just by standing.

Rob Summers was paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident five years ago. His doctors told him he would never stand again. They were wrong.

Summers had heard about new research on the treatment of spinal cord injuries in which doctors implant an electrical stimulator on the lining of the patient's spinal cord to wake up the damaged nerve system.

"The stimulator sends a general signal to the spinal cord to walk or stand," explained Dr. Susan Harkema, rehabilitation research director at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center in Louisville.

Summers, 25, decided to give it a try and volunteered for the research project. Within days he could stand without help.

"It was the most incredible feeling," said Summers of Portland, Ore. "After not being able to move for four years, I thought things could finally change."

When the stimulator is turned on, he can wiggle his toes, move his knees, ankles and hips, and take some steps on a treadmill.

Researchers are optimistic that sometime in the future, they could help millions of paralyzed people regain their mobility.

"This is not a cure, but it could lead to improved functionality in some patients," said Gregoire Courtine, head of experimental neurorehabilitation at the University of Zurich.

Summers case is described in a paper published Friday in the journal, Lancet. The research was paid for by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

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