Up-to-Minute Techniques May Let Paraplegic Walk
Posted on: Sunday, 3 August 2008, 12:00 CDT

By Rebecca Palmer Deseret News

Four years ago, Maggie Anderson's spine was crushed when the minivan she was riding in hit black ice, flipped and landed on her.

Anderson will forever regret not strapping on a seat belt that day in Idaho. But at 21, she's found joy in life, good friends and even a chance of escaping her wheelchair.

Hope first came days after the crash, when she realized she could roll over. Three years later, after intensive daily therapy, Anderson's right leg moved.

Anderson is a community college student in Solana Beach, Calif., near an innovative spinal cord rehabilitation clinic. She also balances a part-time job and a boyfriend in a life that she calls "happy."

The blond, blue-eyed woman moved to California from her mother's home at the top of Emigration Canyon to be near the rehabilitation clinic.

Spinal cord injuries used to be considered hopeless because neurological cells are known to stop dividing and growing in adults. But new clinical techniques are showing that other cells may try to find connections between the brain and appendages in some injured patients.

Technology that mapped the human genome is assisting in the research by identifying exact proteins in various parts of the body. Scientists also are discovering that walking is not completely controlled by the brain, according to research published by the National Institutes of Health. Muscles in the legs and back can be trained to function at limited capacity without brain input.