University of Louisville Implants 10th Participant in Epi-Stim Study

Posted by Sam Maddox in Daily Dose on April 20, 2016 # Research

While the first four individuals implanted with epidural stimulators continue to publicly demonstrate their recovery of function, the team at the University of Louisville has pressed on. Six more subjects, all men, have been implanted in recent months. Two more, both women, will be recruited soon.

According to principal investigator Susan Harkema, two projects are ongoing. “The original study, launched with Rob Summers in 2009, now has enrolled seven of a total eight subjects. In a second study looking primarily at cardiovascular response, we have implanted three of four participants.”

The cardio study has recruited subjects with cervical injuries, said Harkema, and thus with low blood pressure and impaired respiratory function. “We are hoping to show that we can normalize blood pressure with stimulation alone. We also want to know if there are specific stimulation parameters for each behavior, or physiological response.”

Harkema says several papers are “in the hopper” but results are not yet published. “We can’t put results out before we are published in the literature,” she said, “but we are very optimistic. The results appear to be very consistent with what we have seen in the first four individuals who were implanted.”

Results for those men, which inspired the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to conceptualize The Big Idea study, showed recovery of voluntary movement and standing when stimulation is on, plus significant residual benefits to autonomic functions, including improved bowel, bladder and sexual function.

The Big Idea will enroll 36 more people into the epidural stimulation study with the goal of starting enrollment later this year.

Visit ReeveBigIdea.org for more information.

This story was originally featured in the 2016 Winter Edition of Progress in Research. Download the most recent and past editions of PIR.

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.