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Jason Gillette, Health & Human Performance, (515) 294-8310
Bridget Bailey, News Service, (515) 294-6881


AMES, Iowa -- An Iowa State University researcher is on his way to helping those with spinal cord injuries move paralyzed limbs.

Jason Gillette, assistant professor of health and human performance, is testing the practical applications of a computer-controlled electrical stimulation system. The stimulation system will be used to assist individuals with spinal cord injuries move from sitting to standing postures.

"The long-term goal of my research is to make electrical stimulation systems a more viable option for individuals with spinal cord injuries to use for exercise and for activities of daily living," Gillette said. "One application is to use electrical stimulation to exercise the legs and lower back to regain muscle mass that has been lost due to lack of use after injury. Another application is to use an electrical stimulation system for movements that are difficult from a wheelchair, such as standing and reaching at a counter."

Gillette's research involves computer-controlled electrical pulses delivered to nerves that cause muscles to move. The pulses are sent through electrodes on the surface of the skin--similar to the therapeutic stimulation given by many physical therapy clinics.

"The goal of the sit-to-stand study is to provide stimulation patterns that reduce the demands on the arms to provide a smooth, stable transition from sitting to standing for individuals with spinal cord injuries," Gillette said.

He added that these patterns will be determined by computer simulations, measuring the amount of hand support force required for a sit-to-stand movement, and analyzing videos of the individuals.

Gillette is looking for individuals with complete (ASIA-A) thoracic-level spinal cord injuries to participate in a sit-to-stand study. Each individual will be asked to complete a medical questionnaire with his or her personal physician to determine eligibility for the study.

The stimulation system was originally developed at the University of Kentucky, where Gillette was a post-doctoral researcher. After arriving at Iowa State, Gillette received funding for two separate projects: an Iowa State special research initiation grant that provides funding for "Optimization of Functional Neuromuscular Stimulation Patterns to Improve Sitting-to-Standing Movements for Individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries;" and a subcontract from customKYnetics, Inc., which provides funding for "Biomechanical Analysis of Stimulation for Improved Trunk Stability." The subcontract is in part from the National Institutes of Health.


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