Born with cerebral palsy, Julia Giammona, 16, spent most of her life in a wheelchair. But after being treated by Zaghloul Ahmed three years ago, she’s been able to walk with crutches. Ahmed, physical therapy assistant professor at the College of Staten Island, used the PathMaker Neural Stimulation System to treat Giammona and other patients in his private practice.
Ahmed invented the PathMaker, CUNY-trademarked method — which restores mobility in patients with neuromuscular damage, such as spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy and stroke — four years ago. He’s perfecting the procedure while working with scientists at City College’s Bioengineering Department on building the PathMaker prototype.
“I hope to have one device and procedure that can be easy to use on patients,” says Ahmed. It would be made available to doctors and therapists for use in their own clinics through a cooperative enterprise of Ahmed and the University.
With spinal cord injuries, both the connections from the brain to the spinal cord and the spinal cord are weakened. Ahmed’s methods involve applying simultaneous electrical pulses to the brain and muscles that strengthen these connections and improve function.
Ahmed received a $250,000 grant from the New York City Investment Fund, which he will use to conduct a clinical trial involving 96 patients at CSI in partnership with Staten Island University Hospital, starting this fall.
“Physical therapy and rehabilitation are the most important and effective treatments for all neurological conditions that involve the motor system,” says Ahmed. “But this has limitations. There are people who can’t stand up or walk and these are the patients that we propose to work on.”