Jered Chinnock, 29, of Wisconsin, was left unable to move or feel anything below the middle of his torso after damaging his spinal cord when he was flung from his snowmobile while riding with friends in 2013.
But in a groundbreaking technique which combines electronic spinal cord stimulation and physical therapy, Mr Chinnock is now standing up and taking steps with just the assistance of a walking frame and gentle support from his physiotherapist.
“What this is teaching us is that those networks of neurons below a spinal cord injury still can function after paralysis,” said Dr Kendall Lee, neurosurgeon and director of Mayo Clinic’s Neural Engineering Laboratories.
“After turning on the stimulation the patient was able to gain voluntary control.
“The reason this is important is because the patient’s own mind and thoughts was able to drive the movement in his legs. And we were able to get him to stand independently and take his own steps.”
In similar trials, at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, University of Louisville, two patients with complete spinal cord injury were also able to walk again, using just a frame, while a further two could stand independently.