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Paralyzed Man Regains Hand Function After Breakthrough Nerve Rewiring Procedure 56

An anonymous reader writes "A 71-year-old man who became paralyzed from the waist down and lost all use of both hands in a 2008 car accident has regained motor function in his fingers after doctors rewired his nerves to bypass the damaged ones in a pioneering surgical procedure, according to a case study published on Tuesday."
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Paralyzed Man Regains Hand Function After Breakthrough Nerve Rewiring Procedure

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  • by jcrb ( 187104 ) <jcrb@yaho[ ]om ['o.c' in gap]> on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @12:41AM (#40013299) Homepage

    Between this, the latest reports of restoring sigh with implantable photo voltaic chips and engineered nano particle drug delivery, medical science fiction is running out of subjects that are still fiction. Kurzweil's Singularity is looking more and more likely every day.

    In the words of Glenn Reynolds ...... FASTER, PLEASE!!

    • by rrohbeck ( 944847 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:04AM (#40013427)


    • by FunkDup ( 995643 )


      I'm starting to get the impression that the changes associated with this singularity, while certainly amazing, are not necessarily going to be psychologically comfortable for us flesh bags. I mean, this stuff is only the beginning. Are future software beings going to look pitifully on us because we're traumatized from our world changing underneath us so many times?

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      medical science fiction is running out of subjects that are still fiction

      Indeed, compared to a modern hospital, Dr. McCoy's sick bay looks downright primitive (I journaled [] about this a few years ago). Some things are beyond sci-fi today. For example, in Star Trek II, McCoy gives Kirk reading glasses because he's allergic to lens softeners (we still don't have that) but a CrystaLens implant will cure age related presbyopia, as well as myopia, astigatism, and cataracts -- bus they still haven't invented them

  • by cortex ( 168860 ) <> on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @12:48AM (#40013339)
    Pretty amazing surgery, but watching the videos shows limited restoration of function. The key is getting the transplanted/regenerating nerves to make the proper connections. The surgery is not going to re-wire the incredible number of connections made during development. Neural prostheses currently offer better dexterity and restoration of function than the nerve transplant. However, it is likely only a matter of time (maybe sever decades) before the neural re-wiring problem is solved.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      They can sever nerves, but to sever decades is the real trick

    • by crash123 ( 2523388 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:22AM (#40013493)
      You have to remember that this operation probably caused nerve damage too and nerves take a ridiculously long time to heal (about 6mm per week) also the dude hasn't used his hand in four years so he has probably just forgotten how to use it too. He will have a lot of rehab ahead of him i imagine.
    • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

      Pretty amazing surgery, but watching the videos shows limited restoration of function.

      I know a couple of people personally who would vastly prefer "limited restoration of function" over "no function".

    • by anerki ( 169995 )

      It's far too early to already conclude that reqained functionality is minimal or not worth the risk.

      The human nerve system could be compared to the central phone systems of a long time ago where you had an operator that would connect you (where your line inserted) to where you wanted to go by just replugging your cable.

      The human or animal body does much the same. It will check what the connections are, and over time optimise them or redirect them if their function has changed.

      This was proven a long time ago

      • I have been told that if you wear glasses that flip your vision, within a few days you'll see the correct way again. The idea of actually trying that myself is a bit intimidating!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The human body never ceases to amaze in how flexible and adaptable it is. Amazing work by the doctors.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:06AM (#40013431)

    "The brain has to be trained to think, 'OK, I used to bend my elbow with this nerve, and now I use it to pinch' [...] it's more of a mental game that patients have to play with themselves."

    I love imagining just how this would feel. Does the wiring ever become automatic and abstract in the same way that we normally come to experience motor movements(not thinking about pulling this muscle, relaxing that one, but just that we want to move our leg)? Or will he for the rest of his life feel like he is trying to move a specific forearm muscle group when he scratches his head?

  • by Will Steinhelm ( 1822174 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:10AM (#40013449)
    Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.
    • by gijoel ( 628142 )
      I don't know there would definitely be a downside to having your hand making that whirring and eh-eh-eh-eh noise every time you masturbated.
  • by antdude ( 79039 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:28AM (#40013517) Homepage Journal

    Reposted and updated from [] ...

    When I had my cranial surgery (due to my locked jaw -- had to open my jaw -- it was so bad that I couldn't stick my tongue out), the doctors had to break some nerves to fix this (from my neck and right side of my head near the ear area).

    After the complex surgery, the right side of my face were unresponsive (i.e. couldn't move and feel). That included my right eye where I couldn't move my eye lids (not even close fully).

    After about two months, I went to another surgery to fix these damaged facial nerves. The doctors fixed this by connecting working nerves to the damaged ones. Basically, they were rerouting these signals as if you were rerouting a network.

    Some of my broken nerves are currently recovered, but it will take years to recovered almost fully (not 100%).

    You can read more old details from [] ...


    5/15/2012: Nope, they never recovered fully. I still can't close my right eye lid fully and can feel a little more, but still can't move fully. The feelings still funky in other areas on my head/face/neck. Heh!

    I wonder how much has improved from 1998 if I had that nerve reconstruction in 2010s.

  • This would be a good candidate for cloning. i.e. clone the nerves. They don't remotely look like body parts so the average person wouldn't be so squeamish about it, and it provides enormous benefit so the public conceivably would back the research. And... it would give scientists the room to figure out how to clone other body parts in immune system agnostic ways for when people would buy into growing a new foot.
    • How is cloning gonna help anything? The problem isn't obtaining nerves, it's connecting them.

      Think of it like this [] but at microscopic level, and with no labels on the cables to figure out what should be connected to what.

      • Of course obtaining nerves is a problem. To get them you have to take them from somewhere else. They have to disable one part of your body by removing a nerve connection to use it at another point. Granted the ability to walk is more important for most people than being able to say move your arm normally. But why should we have to compromise? I can tell you from experience that having one part of your body, even part of a limb not working right sucks like hell. And cloning removes the problem of rejection.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I knew a guy who tempted fate and jumped into a swimming hole from a railway bridge. It was only about 20 feet down to the water, and the boulder was only 4 inches below its surface. He has use of part of the muscles in one shoulder (otherwise a quadriplegic). This would really help him. He isn't that old. Problem though: he was a dare devil before his accident. He wouldn't think twice of jumping into a Chevy truck with a 350 V8 engine, and hammer on the gas on an icy winter road, then stomp his foot

  • Seriously, any time I hear of stuff like that, I think it's gotta suck for Christopher Reeve now.

  • > Paralyzed Man Regains Hand Function After Breakthrough Nerve Rewiring Procedure

    And, yes, "that" was the first thing he did.

  • The adaptability of the nerve network in the human body really does amaze me. I'm glad to see that we're (as in humanity) making some steps toward resolving paralysis. The concept of being trapped in my own body has always been somewhat chilling to me.
  • He's paralyzed from the waist down. Have a mercy, folks, and get his penis working first.

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