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Paralyzed People Are Walking Again Thanks To Some Amazing New Technology

You probably know someone or you’re perhaps related to a paralyzed person. At any given moment, we are all just one freak accident away from losing the use of our limbs.

But thanks to the dedication of a handful of brilliant researchers, paralyzation may no longer be a terrible, life-altering condition. There are a committed few making science fiction, a reality.

After a horrific auto accident, Denver native, and 35-year-old Marine Corps. vet John Supon thought he’d never walk again. That was true until he put on his Idego exoskeleton.

“Cooking my own meal while I’m standing up, walking a flight of stairs, just being able to talk to someone at eye level,” said Supon.

Candy Tertiller, Director of Physical Therapy at Craig Hospital, is responsible for John Supon being able to walk for the first time in over eight years.

“When he wants to move, he’s gonna’ lean forward, which is going to cause the system to vibrate,” says Tertiller. “Lets him know that he’s moving into a different mode, so that’s going to allow him to walk forward.”

The Indego exoskeleton consists of five pieces. It’s not available for consumers yet because it’s still awaiting FDA approval. When it does go on the market, the the Indego exoskeleton will cost about $70,000.

Supon, who is one of three people participating in the research program at Craig Hospital, hopes his experience will convince insurance companies to cover the cost of the new technology.

Elsewhere, ground-breaking cell transplant treatments have led to paralyzed people taking their first steps in years.

A 2010 knife attack left Darek Fidyka, 38, paralyzed from the chest down. Fidyka underwent 21 months of rehabilitation that produced little improvement in his condition.

“But two years after the 2012 cell transplant he can walk with the aid of a Zimmer frame, also known as a walker,” CNN reports.

Scientists at University College London (UCL) developed the treatment, which saw olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) from the nose transplanted to Fidyka’s spinal cord. OECs are what allow the sense of smell to return when nerve cells in the nose are damaged.

Surgeons at Wroclaw University in Poland led by Dr Pawel Tabakow injected the OECs above and below Fidyka’s spinal cord gap, then used nerve tissue taken from his ankle to act as a bridge for spinal nerves to grow across, UCL said.

The underlying idea is ‘can we get something out of an area where repair works and transfer it into an area where repair doesn’t work and will it then cause a repair?.’
Geoff Raisman, UCL

Three months after the surgery, Fidyka’s thigh muscle began to grow and three months after that he started to walk with leg braces and the help of a physiotherapist, researchers said.

Being able to walk with a Zimmer frame or walker two years on, Fidyka said, was an incredible feeling.

“When you can’t feel almost half your body, you are helpless, but when it starts coming back it’s as if you were born again,” he said.

Bladder sensation and some sexual function have also returned, the UCL said.


Jerome Hudson

Managing Editor

Jerome Hudson has written for numerous national outlets, including The Hill, National Review, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was recognized as one of Florida’s emerging stars, having been included in the list “25 Under 30: Florida’s Rising Young Political Class.” Hudson is a Savannah, Ga. native who currently resides in Florida.

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