Vote #Paralysis challenge for Longitude Prize
As an emergency medicine doctor and former British Army captain, I have witnessed the shock of sudden paralysis first hand. And it is not a condition confined to the battlefield – over 40,000 people in the UK suffer from paralysis, and someone is paralysed every eight hours.
The loss of function and mobility are enormous challenges to adjust to in daily life, but the physical limitations of paralysis are only one facet of the problem. Aside from the various medical issues that immobility can cause, such as scoliosis or sores, there can be a highly damaging psychological impact.
Restoring basic freedoms
Many of us do not appreciate the basic freedoms of mobility and bodily function, and the positive impact these freedoms have on our mental health – paralysis can be an isolating inhibitor to social and societal engagement.
At the moment, the possibility of repairing spinal injuries, whether through surgery or stem-cell therapy, is a long way off. However, we are making significant strides towards recovering elements of upright mobility and function using engineering and robotics.
If paralysis is chosen for Longitude Prize 2014, the challenge will be to invent a system that gets closest to giving paralysed people the same freedom of movement that most of us enjoy.
A catalyst for new ideas
Refining robotics could create practical exoskeletons suitable for day-to-day use, whilst further biological testing could provide a breakthrough in regenerative medicine.
This challenge could be a great catalyst for neurological, technological or biological innovations that could significantly improve the standard of living for people living with paralysis. Which is why I’m voting for paralysis to become the challenge of Longitude Prize 2014.