Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hope for Humans? Paralyzed rats walk again in Swiss lab study

Image: rat walking

Lately I’ve been reading about “exo-skeletons” that researchers are using to give paralyzed people the power to move their hands, arms and legs.

There’s more research that may restore paralyzed peoples motion one day coming out of Switzerland.

The following story highlights another way to help paralyzed people. It appears to be a step in the right direction:

“Scientists in Switzerland have restored full movement to rats paralyzed by spinal cord injuries in a study that spurs hope that the techniques may hold promise for someday treating people with similar injuries.

Gregoire Courtine and his team at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne saw rats with severe paralysis walking and running again after a couple of weeks following a combination of electrical and chemical stimulation of the spinal cord together with robotic support.

"Our rats are not only voluntarily initiating a walking gait, but they are soon sprinting, climbing up stairs and avoiding obstacles," said Courtine, whose results from the five-year study will be published in the journal Science on Friday.

Courtine is quick to point out that it remains unclear if a similar technique could help people with spinal cord damage but he adds the technique does hint at new ways of treating paralysis. Other scientists agree.”

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