Paralyzed Rats Taught To Walk Again
A new technique involving soaking the spinal cord in chemicals and zapping it with electricity has helped paralyzed rats walk again.
The results help pave the way for further research into rehabilitating spinal cord injury patients.
In 2009, approximately 5.6 million people in the United States were believed to have paralysis defined as "a central nervous system disorder resulting in difficulty or inability to move."
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The rats' spinal cords were cut in two and then injected with chemicals. After stimulating the base of the cord with electricity, the rats were supported in a robotic harness, and the scientists taught the rats to walk again.
The lead researcher, Prof Gregoire Courtine told the BBC, "Over time the animal regains the capacity to perform one, two steps, then a long run and eventually we gain the capacity to sprint over ground, climb stairs and even pass obstacles."
The scientists observed that new nerves were forming and that changes in the brain were taking place.
But they do caution against the use of the actual method itself on humans.
Instead, what they are more interested in are in the changes taking place in the brain; that it is important to engage the brain, to make it want to do something.
"You've got to make the rat want to step, it demonstrates the importance of training and rehabilitation," Prof Reggie Edgerton, from the University of California Los Angeles told the BBC.