Rob Summers, a college-level football player from Oregon, USA, was crippled after being hit by a car. But after months of painful procedures, which have seen medical teams using electronics to bypass the brain and directly stimulate the spinal cord, he is back on his feet.
The 'world-first' procedure is being seen as a huge step forward not only for Mr Summers but the entire field of paraplegic treatment.
The 25-year-old, whose life was devastated by the hit and run in 2006, said: “This procedure has completely changed my life.
“For someone who for four years was unable to even move a toe to have the freedom and ability to stand on my own is the most amazing feeling.”
Details of the procedure, carried out by the Kentucky Spinal Cord Research Center, in Louisville, has been published in the Lancet medical journal.
Medics spent two years working with Mr Summers, over 170 training sessions, then they inserted a 16 electrode implant into his spine which mimics the signals usually sent by the brain.
The team admit it it early days but Mr Summers has been able to stand and make stepping motions on a treadmill.
One of the 11-strong research team Prof Reggie Edgerton said: “The spinal cord is smart. The neural networks in the lumbosacral spinal cord are capable of initiating full weight bearing and relatively co-ordinated stepping without any input from the brain.”