An international group of scientists, including researchers from St Petersburg University, for the first time presented protocols for the simultaneous stimulation of several segments of the spinal cord. This will help restore motor function after paralysis.
The results of a long-term study conducted on rodent and primate models have been published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Protocols.
«Protocols of stimulation is a kind of step-by-step action plan for applying control algorithms to neural networks of the spinal cord. Its segments are selected and stimulated depending on which limb muscles need to be activated for the most effective recovery of motor function in case of paralysis,» said Pavel Musienko, Head of the laboratory of neuroprosthetics of the Institute of Translational Biomedicine of St Petersburg University. «The work presents for the first time a detailed protocol of research; and describes the methodological stages from surgery to analytical methods of data processing for the control of neural networks of the spinal cord in real time.»
The study was carried out by experts from Italy, Switzerland, Russia and Germany. All of them are specialists in various fields: physiology, experimental surgery, and biomedical engineering. One of the prerequisites for the creation of the team was the international project NEWWalk, during which the scientific group worked on a neural interface for the management of neural networks of the spinal cord, intended for people with neuromotor diseases.
As the researchers note, the results of the work will help open new opportunities for the treatment of patients with spinal cord injuries. Therefore, the next step for the scientists will be the organisation of clinical trials. They are currently searching for private investors; and they are applying for support to state institutions so that new neuro-rehabilitation approaches can be implemented in medical practice as soon as possible.