Electrical voltage can provide a stimulus to damaged spinal chords in patients with paralysis
Electrical voltage can provide a stimulus to damaged spinal chords in patients with paralysis Wikicommons

A pioneering treatment that uses electrical shocks to stimulate damaged spinal chords could help paralysed patients move again.

26-year-old Calven Goza, who was paralysed below the chest, thought he would never move his legs again.

His treatment involved the spinal cord being given an electrical stimulation to mimic signals from the brain. The 26-year-old was then able to move his toe and knee, according to a Mail Online report.

The spinal chord is 'taught' how to control limbs and body functions independently of the brain, so the patient has some control of movement.

Central to the treatment is a device, a few centimetres long, which contains 16 electrodes and implanted in the back.

Scientists in Louisville implanted electrodes in Goza's spine and wire leg with sensors.

When the electrical voltage was turned up, he was able to bend his knee, and lift his leg off the table.

"It was pretty awesome," he told CNN.

"I questioned it at first— maybe it didn't actually happen, and I was just hoping it did."

Four other men who were paralysed in traffic accidents were able to move their legs for the first time in many years using this pioneering treatment.

Lead author Claudia Angeli, of the University of Louisville's Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, said: "Because of epidural stimulation, they can now voluntarily move their hips, ankles and toes," she said.

"This is groundbreaking for the entire field and offers a new outlook that the spinal cord, even after a severe injury, has great potential for functional recovery."

Co-researcher Susan Harkema added:"The belief that no recovery is possible and complete paralysis is permanent has been challenged," she said.

The research was supported by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the charity founded by actor Christopher Reeve and his wife.

Reeve, who played Superman, was paralysed from the neck down in a horse-riding accident in 1995. He died in 2004, aged 52.