Epidural electrical stimulation for spinal cord injury

Neural Regen Res. 2021 Dec;16(12):2367-2375. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.313017.


A long-standing goal of spinal cord injury research is to develop effective repair strategies, which can restore motor and sensory functions to near-normal levels. Recent advances in clinical management of spinal cord injury have significantly improved the prognosis, survival rate and quality of life in patients with spinal cord injury. In addition, a significant progress in basic science research has unraveled the underlying cellular and molecular events of spinal cord injury. Such efforts enabled the development of pharmacologic agents, biomaterials and stem-cell based therapy. Despite these efforts, there is still no standard care to regenerate axons or restore function of silent axons in the injured spinal cord. These challenges led to an increased focus on another therapeutic approach, namely neuromodulation. In multiple animal models of spinal cord injury, epidural electrical stimulation of the spinal cord has demonstrated a recovery of motor function. Emerging evidence regarding the efficacy of epidural electrical stimulation has further expanded the potential of epidural electrical stimulation for treating patients with spinal cord injury. However, most clinical studies were conducted on a very small number of patients with a wide range of spinal cord injury. Thus, subsequent studies are essential to evaluate the therapeutic potential of epidural electrical stimulation for spinal cord injury and to optimize stimulation parameters. Here, we discuss cellular and molecular events that continue to damage the injured spinal cord and impede neurological recovery following spinal cord injury. We also discuss and summarize the animal and human studies that evaluated epidural electrical stimulation in spinal cord injury.

Keywords: central nervous system; chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans; epidural electrical stimulation; glial scar; gliosis; neural activity; neuromodulation; oligodendrocyte; spinal cord injury.

Publication types

  • Review