Researchers to measure effects of epidural stimulation on standing, controlling leg movements and improving cardiovascular functions

SHORT HILLS, N.J. – December 11, 2017 –The University of Louisville School of Medicine has received approval from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to begin enrolling participants in a feasibility study that will further explore the life-enhancing effects of epidural stimulation on people with spinal cord injury (SCI).

The study, funded by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation through its The Big Idea campaign, will measure the extent to which epidural stimulation will facilitate the ability to stand and voluntarily control leg movements below the injury level, and will improve cardiovascular function in 36 chronic, complete participants.

Researchers led by principal investigator Dr. Susan Harkema at the University of Louisville’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center are seeking to demonstrate – using a significant sample size – the safety and efficacy of epidural stimulation as a treatment for SCI, as well as potentially expedite its availability to individuals who can benefit from it.

The Big Idea continues groundbreaking epidural stimulation research funded by the Reeve Foundation and published in 2014 in the scientific journal Brain. In that study, four young men diagnosed with chronic complete spinal cord injury were implanted with a device called an epidural stimulator on their spine. The men regained the ability to stand, bear their weight, and flex their toes, legs, and hips. They have also experienced improved autonomic functions, including bladder, bowel and sexual function.

“The discovery that sparked The Big Idea signaled an unprecedented breakthrough in our pursuit to enhance the independence, health and quality of life for people with paralysis,” said Peter Wilderotter, president and CEO of the Reeve Foundation. “With participant enrollment set to begin, we are closer than ever to bringing a therapy that will effectively transform the lives of individuals living with spinal cord injury and give hope to those who were told that recovery was impossible. As Christopher Reeve said, ‘nothing is impossible’ and The Big Idea will prove that.”

The University of Louisville is currently screening potential candidates for the six-year study. Each participant will be enrolled for two years. Those interested in being considered can add their information to the University’s Victory Over Paralysis database: For more information or to help the campaign reach its $15 million goal, visit


About the Reeve Foundation

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis through grants, information and advocacy. We meet all 20 of the Better Business Bureau’s standards for charity accountability and hold the BBB’s Charity Seal. For more information, please visit our website at or call 800-225-0292.

About the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC) at the University of Louisville (UofL)

The Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC), opened in 2001, provides the opportunity for basic scientists, physicians, neurosurgeons and physical therapists to work collaboratively with the common goal of curing paralysis. Through close association with clinical colleagues in the UofL Department of Neurological Surgery, KSCIRC is in a unique position to conduct research designed to ultimately lead to effective treatments for spinal cord injury. This continuum of research has facilitated a “bench-to-bedside” and “bedside-to-bench” approach, where basic science questions are examined from a translational perspective, and findings in the clinical setting enlighten or guide future basic scientific studies.

Media contacts:

Rita Gentles

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Stephen Wilson

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Note: There are companies and clinics in other parts of the world that are falsely advertising epidural stimulation treatments and may pose a danger to the paralysis community. Please read the Reeve Foundation's statement on off-shore stimulation treatments.