The Technological Cure

In recent weeks we’ve seen the headlines “Paralyzed Student Walks at Graduation” and “Paralyzed Bride Walks Down Aisle”.  In these stories and others like them, the paralyzed person is able to “walk” using a robotic exoskeleton and computerized brain signals.  If you’re a fan of the television show “Glee”, you probably saw the December episode where Artie received a “ReWalk” for Christmas and miraculously got up and walked.

Considerable time and money is being invested in the pursuit of a “technological” cure.  When I talk with people who have spinal cord injuries, many of them look with disdain at this approach.  They don’t want to have to “flip a switch” or wear an exoskeleton in order to regain function.  They believe that our resources should instead be directed at stem cell therapies that hold the promise of regeneration and a true repair of the spinal cord.

What do you think?  This coming weekend I will attend the Spine Symposium and State of the Science portions of the annual International Spinal Cord Society (ISCoS) meeting.  The organizers are asking for consumer input to inform a research agenda for the next 10 years.  As we all know, research into curing SCI is massively underfunded.  Even as we work to increase that funding, where should we spend the precious time, money and energy that is available?

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