Danish Research Result of the Year: The Paralyzed Learn to Walk · 2. December 2010

A ground-breaking research project in which researchers in biomedical engineering give paralyzed people a part of their mobility back has been named the Danish Research Result of the Year 2010. The scientists are also working to commercialize the concept to the delight of paralyzed blood clot patients.

Thursday afternoon the research news portal Videnskab.dk announced the recipient of the annual award for Danish Research Result of the Year. This year, the honor goes to a dramatic and innovative research project at Aalborg University, where researchers at the internationally leading Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction (SMI) have generated promising results for the rehabilitation of patients with paralysis. The results come out of the Center’s basic research into the withdrawal reflex, which can play a major role in rehabilitation after a stroke.

Professor Ole Kæseler Andersen's research into what is known as the nociceptive withdrawal reflex has created a new method of rehabilitation after a stroke that, in short, is based on the notion that a person pulls the foot back as a reflex if sudden pain occurs. With new knowledge about how reflexes function the researchers have taken the next step which deals with using the reflex purposefully during rehabilitation. The treatment, called functional electrical therapy, has been tested for a longer period at the Neuro-Rehabilitation Center at Vendsyssel Hospital in Brønderslev with patients who need rehabilitation following a stroke.

- We’ve developed a method of using electrical stimulation of the withdrawal reflex in a way that can help in patients' rehabilitation. The electrical impulse triggers a natural reflex such that the leg is pulled up and the foot moves, so the patient is helped to move their leg even though he or she was partially paralyzed after a stroke, says Ole Andersen Kæseler.

Currently, there are negotiations with an investor who wants to place venture capital in the project. That way it will eventually be possible to move the new knowledge out of the research laboratory and into the commercial market. The idea is for the product to be sold to rehabilitation centers, and in principle, the market is global.

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