PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - It was a feeling of victory for Heather Rendulic.
"I actually was able to open my hand for the first time in nine years, and my family and I were in tears of just overwhelming joy and happiness," said Rendulic.
Rendulic, 33, suffered from a series of strokes in her twenties, and she struggled to do everyday tasks with her left arm and hand.
But then, she participated in a new four-week study called "epidural stimulation" at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital.
Researchers said they implanted a device to zap her spine in spots that control her arm and hand.
"The electrodes are two, kind of, spaghetti-like noodles with electrical contacts on them," said Marc Powell, who is the lead author of the study. "That gets placed in the epidural space of the spinal cord. The electrodes sit right there, and we activate the neurons by sending small pulses of current through the electrodes."
He said the results are promising for stroke survivors who are left with upper limb impairments.
"This is actually a procedure done pretty regularly," said Powell. "These devices are used to treat chronic pain, and they're implanted 50,000 times a year in the U.S. So, [it's] a very safe, well-known piece of hardware."
"The stimulation is something that is so life-changing for me and so many other people to come after me," Rendulic added. "It's enabling me to move and do things that I haven't done in so many years."
Powell said he founded Reach Neuro to commercialize this technology for clinics to use in the future. He said it could take up to 10 years for the FDA to approve the device.
In the meantime, he said they received more funding to continue the study, and they're looking for additional participants.
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