Four paraplegic men move again with electrical device

(Left to Right) Andrew Meas, Dustin Shillcox, Kent Stephenson and Rob Summers Credit: University of Louisville/ Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation

A motor cross racer who was left paralysed from his chest down after an accident has moved his legs for the first time in years as a result of electrical stimulation treatment of the spinal chord.

He is among four men who have been successfully treated by this groundbreaking device.

The participants were able to execute voluntary movements immediately following the implantation and activation of the stimulator.

ITV News Science and Medical Editor Lawrence McGinty reports:

Kent Stephenson was 21-years-old when he injured his spine during a motor cross crash.

Three years after the incident, Kent was implanted with the epidural stimulator and he can be seen in the video moving his legs and toes.

This came as a result of continual direct stimulation to their lower spinal cords, which sent signals to the brain to initiate movement.

All four men were classified with chronic motor complete spinal cord injury, which means they were unable to move their lower body prior to the research, which was carried out by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

Reeve Foundation's NeuroRecovery Network's director Susan Harkema told the medical journal Brain:

The belief that no recovery is possible and complete paralysis is permanent has been challenged.

The assistant professor of University of Louisville's Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center has hailed the treatment, saying that it is "groundbreaking" for the field.

Claudia Angeli said:

Because of epidural stimulation, they can now voluntarily move their hips, ankles and toes.

Angeli added that the treatment offers a "new outlook" that the spinal cord, even after a severe injury, has "great potential" for functional recovery.