Tim GilmerIn this issue we revisit the “C” word — the seemingly neverending search for a cure for paralysis. For me, the quest began in 1966, 50 years ago, when biomedical engineering succeeded in helping paraplegics stand with electrical stimulation. But for many NM readers, the search is immediate and ongoing, as in now. Yet even in this era of stem cell research, epidural stimulation, treadmill walking and other experimental treatments, the cure still seems somehow distant.

But there are unmistakable signs of progress. At times it seems that all that is needed is to discover just one more piece of the puzzle, and then everything will fall into place, mystery solved. It is unlikely, though, that just one more discovery will result in a widespread cure anytime in the next five years. One of the biggest obstacles is the deliberate nature of the scientific process itself. Another is the way our health care system is slow to include new treatments. And a third is cost. Medicare and private insurance companies are unlikely to cover the cost of expensive operations or equipment for any but a