Research in Multiple Sclerosis can learn from other disciplines and when it comes to repair and neurorestoration, dealing with spinal cord injuries is light years ahead of MS.
The reason is simple you have the insult that causes the problem and then healing occurs but in MS the insult just keeps on coming. Thankfully new MS drugs are making impact on stopping the damage from coming, but for some this is all too late and we need to regain lost function. Many believe that this is going to come from stem cells, but the hype has yet to deliver. Another approach is to gain a helping mechanical hand and so I report away from MS and onto animal experiments .
Spinal cord injury disrupts the communication between the brain and the spinal circuits that orchestrate movement. To bypass the lesion, brain–computer interfaces have directly linked cortical activity to electrical stimulation of muscles, and have thus restored grasping abilities after hand paralysis. Theoretically, this strategy could also restore control over leg muscle activity for walking. However, replicating the complex sequence of individual muscle activation patterns underlying natural and adaptive locomotor movements poses formidable conceptual and technological challenges. Recently, it was shown in rats that epidural electrical stimulation of the lumbar spinal cord can reproduce the natural activation of synergistic muscle groups producing locomotion Here we interface leg motor cortex activity with epidural electrical stimulation protocols to establish a brain–spine interface that alleviated gait deficits after a spinal cord injury in non-human primates. Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) were implanted with an intracortical microelectrode array in the leg area of the motor cortex and with a spinal cord stimulation system composed of a spatially selective epidural implant and a pulse generator with real-time triggering capabilities. We designed and implemented wireless control systems that linked online neural decoding of extension and flexion motor states with stimulation protocols promoting these movements. These systems allowed the monkeys to behave freely without any restrictions or constraining tethered electronics. After validation of the brain–spine interface in intact (uninjured) monkeys, we performed a unilateral corticospinal tract lesion at the thoracic level. As early as six days post-injury and without prior training of the monkeys, the brain–spine interface restored weight-bearing locomotion of the paralysed leg on a treadmill and overground. The implantable components integrated in the brain–spine interface have all been approved for investigational applications in similar human research, suggesting a practical translational pathway for proof-of-concept studies in people with spinal cord injury
Scientists have used wireless implants to restore movements but that required a prosthetic limb or a mechanical exoskeleton. This research uses a new brain-spine interface to wirelessly relay information with no cumbersome technology.
When the nervous system is fully functioning, a region of the brain called the motor cortex sends signals that travel down the spine until they reach a neural network controlling movement. The nerves then decode the instructions and activate muscles in the legs to produce walking movements.
Spinal cord injury, just like MS, stops the signal from reaching its destination. However with the interface, the implant picks up the brain activity, sends it to a computer that decodes the signals, and relays those walking instructions to a spinal cord stimulator embedded in the lumbar region.
There has yet to be human testing of the interface, and it's not clear whether it would work on people with severe spinal cord damage. The monkey in the study had a small lesion and would have eventually regained its motor functions on its own.
Usually with physical therapy, a patient has to re-learn how to walk. In this study, the monkey was able to move
Amazing click here to go to the Nature website to watch a video.
However what is telling is that this research invented in Europe was done in China, where there is less regulation. This is the sorry state of science. Likewise, in another story in this weeks Nature almost all large UK drugmakers slashed in-house research jobs in discovery to outsource it out of the UK to the east and west.
Animal studies in MS are likewise going the same way:-(