This week, Matthew Reeve, son of the late actor, Christopher Reeve announced a “huge breakthrough” in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. Epidural stimulation is giving four paralyzed men the chance to reclaim their mobility and independence.

Christopher Reeve Matthew ReeveIn 1995, Christopher Reeve was paralyzed during a horseback riding accident. At the time of the incident, the 35 year old star of Superman was fit, healthy and in the prime of his life. After the accident, he not only found the will to maintain a positive attitude, he also became a tireless activist for research.

This week, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation announced that a recent trial with epidural stimulation has given four paralyzed men the ability to voluntarily move their legs and bear weight.

As the 10th anniversary of Reeve’s death approaches, his son told People Magazine that he can’t help but wonder how thrilled his father would be to hear the news. “My father dreamed of a world with empty wheelchairs and gave hope to a whole community,” Mathew said. “This is a key new step in that hope becoming realized.”

How It Works

According to the foundation’s Big Idea website, the epidural device is wired to the patient’s spinal cord, stimulating the nerves. This particular device was previously used to treat pain, but now seems to have the ability to remind nerves how to work again. The four men involved in the study are now able to move their toes, legs and even stand. An unexpected benefit has been the return of bowel, bladder and sexual function.

Now that the small-scale study seems to be a success, the foundation would like to extend the study to 36 men and women at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. To do that, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation hopes to raise 15 million dollars, one of the largest goals it has ever undertaken.

Though Reeve’s son is still involved with the foundation, as are his two siblings, he admits that his father had a skill for fundraising. “I don’t come close to being as effective as he was, in terms of raising money and increasing awareness and his advocacy efforts,” he said, “but it’s a cause that’s close to my heart.”