Saturday, 2 June 2012

Paralyzed Rats Regain Strut In Lab

After severe spinal cord damage, paralyzed rats are able to walk again with the help of a robot to hold them up and stimulate their nerves, a new study shows.

After the rats are trained on the machine for about two months, they gained the ability to control their hind legs — which had previously been cut off from communicating with the brain — with enough dexterity to climb stairs and navigate around objects. This control means that the brain has forged new connections to get around the spinal cord injury.

"We expected they would recover to some degree, but the extent was amazing. They were able to avoid obstacles and walk up stairs," study researcher Janine Heutschi, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Switzerland, told LiveScience. "Not only that, but the consistency was really amazing. Every single animal we trained in this robot was able to perform these tasks."

What this means for humans is unclear, but the team is working to adapt the procedure for clinical trials.

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