Paralyzed Rats Walk Again
Spinal stimulation combined with assisted walking therapy generates new neural circuits and restores voluntary leg movement.
Rats paralyzed by spinal–cord injury can learn to control their hind limbs again if they are trained to walk in a rehabilitative device while their lower spine is electrically and chemically stimulated. A clinical trial using a similar system built for humans could begin in the next few years.
Researchers in Switzerland used electrical and chemical stimulation to excite neurons in the lower spinal cord of paralyzed rats while the rodents were suspended by a vest that forced them to walk using only their hind legs. The rehabilitative procedure led to the creation of new neuronal connections between the movement–directing motor cortex of the brain and the lower spine, the researchers report in Science.
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