Major Gift to U of L Will Go Towards New Technology to Help the Paralyzed

May 24, 2012

The University of Louisville is receiving a $6.3 million dollar gift for efforts to help paralyzed people regain movement in their limbs. The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust is giving the money to support U of L’s Department of Neurological Surgery and the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center.

Researchers at U of L published findings in the medical journal “The Lancet” last year that demonstrated the impact of continual direct electrical stimulation on a paralyzed patient’s lower spinal area. Participants who are wheelchair-bound were able to stand, remain standing, and bear weight.

The electrical current mimics signals the brain normally transmits to initiate movement.

The technology currently being used for the experiments isn’t designed to help those who are paralyzed, but is instead meant for ordinary pain relief.

Louisville Neurological Surgery Professor Susan Harkema says the $6.3 million dollar grant will go towards developing the next generation of electrical stimulation specifically designed to help the paralyzed.