Doctors Report Progress in Treating Hand Paralysis by Rewiring Nerves

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine are reporting the results of a path-breaking new experiment into the treatment of spinal cord injury-related paralysis of the hands. By using an innovative new technique that involved the rerouting of nerves to the upper arms and hands, the researchers were able to get a 71-year-old man who had suffered a spinal cord injury, to get his hands moving again.

The man had suffered a spinal cord injury at the base of his neck in a car accident. He was unable to walk, and was unable to use his hand to hold, or pinch. There was no damage to the nerves of the hands, but they had lost their connection with the brain.

However, the nerves in the upper arm still had a connection established with the brain. The researchers rewired the nerves of the hand, and connected them to the upper arm. Now, the brain was connected to the hand, and the muscles of the hand were able to follow instructions from the brain.

The man is now able to feed himself, and with some assistance, can even write a little. What the doctors essentially did was build a new route from the brain to the hand, via the upper arm. After about eight months, the man was able to use his thumb, index and middle fingers.

According to the doctors, more developed functioning of the hand may be seen after a few months. The doctors expect that as the man is put through a course of physiotherapy, the ability to use his fingers and hands will improve. However, such treatment may only be beneficial to specific injuries to the base of the neck.

California personal injury lawyers expect that there will be follow up research to determine whether the functioning of the hand will improve to the levels before the injury.