Paralyzed Rats Walk Again

Wearing a robotic harness, paralyzed rats have been made to walk again, according to a new study—albeit with an oddly upright, humanlike gait and while stimulated by judicious jolts of electricity and chemicals.

It’s the first time severely injured spinal cords have been reawakened, say researchers, who add that the technique might hold some promise for disabled people.

First, neuroscientist Grégoire Courtine and his team severed the spines of 27 rats, leaving some tissue intact but no direct nerve connections—and therefore no way for the animals to control their hind legs.

A week later the researchers put 17 of the rats on a sort of physical therapy regimen and began administering chemical injections and electric stimulation directly to the rodents’ spinal cords. The remaining ten rats, used as a control group, received no treatment.

The physical training began on a treadmill, with the 17 rats using a robotic harness—created especially for the study—that suspended the animals upright but did not propel them forward.

The treadmill exercise exploited reflexes that make walking in some ways passive, explained neuroscientist Naomi Kleitman of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“Imagine you can’t get any signals from your brain to below the injury—you can still walk on a treadmill,” said Kleitman, who wasn’t part of the new study.

source : http://news.nationalgeographic.co.in/news/2012/05/120531-paralyzed-rats-walk-science-spinal-cords-health/





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