These days we tend to associate spinal cord damage with complete paralysis; if you’re lucky maybe you will get to move a finger or two. Anything involving the restoration of full physical functioning is exiled to the abysmal world of science fiction, right next to RoboCop and Inspector Gadget.Not anymore.
Scientists in Switzerland used a combination of electric shocks, drugs and an intense regimen of exercise to enable rats with spinal cord damage and complete hind leg paralysis to actually walk again.
The study in the journal Science reports that the nerve connections to the hind legs of 10 rats were cut, causing paralysis to the back legs of the rats. After the surgery, the rats began a strict daily course of recovery.
They received electric shocks and drugs thought to promote growth and recovery of the spinal cord. Finally, the rats were forced to exercise 30 minutes a day by slowly moving toward a piece of cheese in front of them. After only a few weeks, not only were all the rats able to walk on their own, some of them were actually able to climb stairs and even run.
The study has revolutionary implications for non-rats as well; if or once the procedures are successfully applied to humans, some of those with spinal cord damage may be able to look forward to a complete recovery of motor skills. The study has major implications for up to a third of paralysis cases relating to spinal cord damage in humans, The New York Times’ Benedict Carey reports.
The procedure has now been applied successfully to over 100 rats and the study’s researchers are currently working their way toward a human trial, Carey writes.
Watch the video below for a further look into the study:
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