The Longitude Prize 2014 is a challenge with a £10 million prize fund to help solve one of the greatest issues of our time. It is being run and developed by Nesta, with the Technology Strategy Board as launch funding partner.
Of the six challenges shortlisted by the Longitude Committee, they want you to vote for the one you think should become the focus of Longitude Prize 2014. One of the challenges is paralysis.
Great news, you would think, but unfortunately this prize could potentially be awarded to whom will develop new compensatory devices such as a wearable robotic suit instead of to a scientist that will find a cure.
Organisers of the Longitude Prize have suggested (see BBC documentary from minute 13.30) that what we need is not regenerative medicine as the cure is a long way off, but instead devices that help us to live with our paralysis! I hope to explain to you that these robotic interventions can’t even do that. It is very unfortunate but it would seem as though curing spinal cord injury has been forgotten in favour of gadgets that do not restore function.
The Cure Girls invite you to join us in saying that we want regenerative therapies, not robots! We disagree with robotic wearable suits and here’s why:
- they have no impact on bladder/bowel/sexual function or breathing ability, leaving us to suffer with infections and accidents
- they have no impact on sensation or neuropathic pain leaving us to suffer with pain and pain medications
- they have no impact on arm or hand function which is a huge problem for tetraplegics
- they require assistance to use therefore do not increase independence
- they are bulky, slow and impractical for everyday use not to mention expensive
- and finally they cannot be used by high level tetraplegics as trunk stability is required
But most importantly, these compensatory devices are being labelled as a cure – as devices which solve all of our problems. I hope this blog has explained to you that these compensatory devices solve NONE of our problems. If paralysis is chosen as the Longitude Prize, valuable research funds will be diverted to further development of machines that do nothing to restore function.
Join the Cure Girls in saying NO! to robotics and YES! to regenerative medicine
Just go on the FB page of the Longitude Prize and post your comment or on Twitter @longitude_prize.
Neurostimulation systems have the ability to provide hand function, bladder function, bowel function, trunk stability, respiratory function (including cough), standing and stepping function to people with paralysis. They are not robots, but they are implantable stimulation systems that restore function. I, too, support efforts to find a cure for spinal injury, and I have my bet placed on regenerative medicine as the likely cure. However, while we are all waiting for that cure to pan out, please consider learning more about how totally implantable neuromodulation systems can provide restored function to people with paralysis right now.
Megan, thank you very much for your comment. My opinion is you don’t restore function with neurostimulation, but you just compensate lost function with a device.