By rewiring nerves, Australian surgeons have been able to restore arm and hand movement to paralyzed patients, allowing them to eat and use tools independently. Completely normal functioning has not yet been restored, but according to doctors, the pioneering operation will change the lives of patients, BBC News reported.
Injuries to the spine stop the message from the brain to the rest of the body, which causes paralysis. All four limbs of the 13 patients included in the research were affected by the paralysis, i.e. they suffered from quadriplegia, but they were able to move certain muscles of their upper arms. Functional nerves from the spinal cord to these muscles were rerouted.
Nerves were cut and connected to nerves that controlled other muscles, such as those that they were responsible for extending the arm or clenching and unclenching the hand. For example, the nerves that once controlled the turning of the palm toward the ceiling subsequently became responsible for extending the fingers. So when patients now think of turning their hands, they open their fingers.
“Nerve transplantation has been performed for a long time, but in the case of spinal cord injury, it was not used much before. We believe that nerve transplantation creates exciting new possibilities. For people living with paralysis, it can restore the functions of the arm and hand, to be able to carry out everyday tasks, giving them greater independence and the experience of being able to easily participate in family life and work,” he said Natasha van Zylfrom Austin Health in Melbourne.
The doctors pointed out that they do not try to restore the very finely coordinated movement of the hand, they mainly focus on two areas, extending and closing the hand and extending the elbow so patients can reach something. “So they can open their hand, reach up to something and grab it, and pick it up,” said van Zyl.
If the injury is so high up the spine that it causes complete paralysis, there is no functioning nerve to reroute. And if the injury occurs in lower vertebrae and the paralysis does not affect the arms, then there is no need for intervention.
According to scientists every year, 250,000 people suffer spinal cord injuries and become quadriplegic worldwide. So there are many people who can benefit from the method, van Zyl pointed out.
However, success is not guaranteed in all cases. According to a study published in the scientific journal Lancet, 56 nerve transplants were performed in 16 patients. In four cases, the operation was unsuccessful. The intervention is most successful when performed 6-12 months after the original injury.
Source: Patika Magazin Online by www.patikamagazin.hu.
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