Christopher Reeve’s son is crowdfunding potential paralysis treatment

Matthew Reeve, son of the most iconic on-screen Superman, Christopher Reeve, is raising money online to fund a trial for a new treatment option for people with spinal cord paralysis.

As New Scientist reports, Reeve is a board member of the Dana and Christopher Reeve foundation, the research and campaigning organisation set up by his parents before their deaths. The foundation has awarded over $110 million (around £68 m) in research grants and is now looking for public support to raise enough for a clinical trial involving a new device which could help people who are paralysed to walk again.

The device sends an electrical current to the spinal cord in order to stimulate it, and the organisation wants to trial its use with 36 people with spinal cord injury. It’s implanted into the spine and controlled by the patient, applying a current to nerve-dense areas at the bottom of the spinal cord, as the brain does in people without this kind of injury.

They’ve already had some success in a small trial of four men whose spinal cords had been completely severed. Using the device has allowed them to all move their toes, feet, and legs, and even to stand briefly. It’s also restored bladder and bowel control and sexual function, even when the device is turned off.

The researchers now want to see how well the device works for women and older people, as well as people with different types of spinal cord paralysis, in order to make it easier to use and even more effective. They’re hoping to begin the study next year, but to do so need to raise $10 million to reach their $15 million (£9.3) target. The foundation has a new website, Reeve Big Idea, devoted to the trial, where people can donate.

Matthew Reeve says, ‘If we see the same results as we did in the first four, this therapy could have a profound impact on thousands of people living with paralysis. It has the potential to become as commonplace as the pacemaker is for cardiac patients.’

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Diane Shipley