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Paralyzed Frank Reynolds Treats Own Spinal Cord To Walk Again

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Paralyzed Frank Reynolds Treats Own Spinal Cord To Walk Again

Paralyzed Frank Reynolds walks again after years of carrying out own research…

When Frank Reynolds suffered an injury that left him paralyzed back in December, 1992, doctors told him that he would never walk again.

But as you can see from the video clip, a lot of dedication, determination and a little bit of luck proved that not to be the case.

Reynolds, presented his amazing story and medical breakthrough at a recent TEDx conference dubbed ‘Revolutionary Ideas,’ in Boston. The whole clip is rather lengthy at 17 mins, but it’s an interesting watch.

The clip does show some scientist testing the procedure on monkeys. But anyone against animal testing reading this, please bear in mind that, like Reynolds mentions in the clip, no one has ever provided a treatment for paralyzed monkey’s, let alone get them walking again. The monkeys endured no more than 48 hours of discomfort throughout the experiment and were administered pain medications during this period.

After the injury, Frank spent most of his time in a hospital bed wearing a brace which supported him from the neck all the way down to his knees (what you see in the clip is just one section from the back).

Not content with the doctors’ diagnosis, or the amount of information regarding his type of spinal injury, Reynolds realized he would have to carry out the research himself. And that’s exactly what he did.

In a time before Internet passwords, Reynolds was able to access medical documents from the online community and set about finding his own cure.

Soon Reynolds found others working in the same field, and some of these researchers had a theory they called ‘Local Reorganization in the Spinal Cord.’

They suggested that the brain doesn’t control the ability to walk it was the spinal column itself. Therefore, if the damaged area of the spinal column could be healed, or ‘reorganized’, the person would stand a good change of walking again.

Reynolds goes on to explain how 90 percent of people who become paralyzed are, in fact not paralyzed but suffering from spinal shock. Permanent paralysis is mainly caused due to the effects of a secondary injury – internal bleeding and inflammation that leads to scar tissue – that occurs after 20 days. If doctors could somehow prevent the secondary injury, the spinal column would recover and the person would regain levels of function.

Of course, after two years of bed-ridden study, Reynolds had way past the 20 day mark. But his technique, pioneered with the help of researchers from MIT, Harvard and Massachusetts University, proved that even severely damaged spinal columns can be repaired.

The technique involves taking stem cells from the patient and growing them in a lab. The damaged area of spinal column is then cut out, and the stem cells are used to create a scaffold for new tissues to grow.

The technology allows for either open back surgery, or closed wound surgery using an injectable hydrogel – co-invented by Reynolds himself.

The technique not only helped Reynolds to walk again, it showed amazing results within as little as two weeks when tested on paralyzed monkeys.

The story is truly amazing; it’s hard to believe that the guy in the video was once told he would never walk again. Well, as Reynolds says in Plato’s words, “necessity [who] is the mother of invention.”


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  1. Jack Loftus: Frank Reynolds Treated His Own Spinal Cord Injury and Walked Again. Gizmodo.com, 09/26/2010.

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