TODAY   |  April 08, 2014

Man paralyzed by spinal cord injury moves legs

A man paralyzed by a car accident four years ago can now move his legs. Researchers at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation say he’s one of four patients using a new therapy that challenges the notion that the spinal cord can’t recover. NBC’s Rehema Ellis reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> some encouraging news this morning for people who were left paralyzed by spinal cord injuries .

>> reporter: it's a stunning development for dustin, moving his legs after a car accident nearly four years ago left him paralyzed from the chest down.

>> it was really a low part of my life and frustrating. really hard to comprehend that i would never have movement again.

>> reporter: now there's new hope. today researchers working with the christopher and dana reeve foundation announce that showcox is one of four patients using a therapy that challenges the notion that the spinal cord once damaged can never recover. the lead researcher was astounded by the results. somebody like me says, wow. what did you say?

>> i said holy cow .

>> reporter: this report builds on an initial study released three years ago. doctors focused on the lower spine below the point of injury. they implanted 16 electrodes and a stimlator, that when operated by remote, can mimic signals from the brain and initiate movement. rob summers was the world's first patient to stand using the device. now researchers say they've discovered the electrical stimulation also worked on two other patients, who unlike summers, had no sensation below the chest. this challenges the notion that the brain is essential for walking.

>> it just brought tears to my eyes, like it is now.

>> being able to move any legs, my toes, my ankles, a huge change in my life for my self-confidence and my quality of life .

>> reporter: researchers say there's a lot more work to do, but today's findings offer promising possibilities for the six million americans living with paralysis. for today, rehema ellis.