Here is a story from March 2006 about Dr. John McDonald who is using restoration therapy to help paralyzed patients get back on their feet. “A major effort that we’re working on is using the concept of patterned activity in order to optimize someone’s ability to self repair their own nervous system and recover function,” Dr. McDonald tells DBIS.
WHAT IS RESTORATION THERAPY? Dr.McDonald’s specialty is activity-based restoration therapy that combines rehab therapies and advanced restoration technologies to help patients recover more quickly. He says that this approach demonstrates that patterned physical activity, such as cycling or walking movements, helps regenerate stem cells and help patients’ bodies “remember” how to move. For instance, one method uses a computer to send electrical messages to a patient’s legs, signaling the leg muscles to contract and pedal a specially designed bike. In normal development of the nervous system, cells are born and differentiate themselves through patterned neural activity; injury to the spinal cord interrupts this vital process.
I have heard of this therapy before. It is the therapy that Christopher Reeve was using before his death. He was able to regain some sensation and movement as a result.
The article still mentions research on embryonic stem cells as the “next step” for spinal cord injury researchers, which Dr. McDonald is working on apparently, but that’s to be expected.