Rat Experiments Give Hope To Spinal Injury Victims

Spinal damage is typically considered to be one of the most severe types of injuries that a Chicago resident can sustain. There are a variety of ways that spinal damage occurs, including car accidents, slip and falls, and blunt force trauma to the back. Spinal injuries often result in paralyzation which is typically irreversible, although extensive research is being done to determine how the impacts of spinal damage can be remedied.

A recent breakthrough came from researchers at Switzerland’s ?cole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne. The researchers were able to train rats with nearly severed spinal cords to walk again with the help of a harness. This was achieved by a combination of electrical and chemical stimulation of the spinal cord. The rats went from being unable to move any of their limbs to climbing, running and walking with the help of the harness.

Researchers say that this was achieved by the rats’ ability to will themselves to walk. The researchers encouraged the rats through cheering and chocolate. The rats which willed themselves to walk developed new neuron connections which helped them regain control of their paralyzed bottom limbs. Rats whose limbs were only moved with the help of a treadmill and no internal will did not make similar gains.

“This is not a cure for spinal cord injuries,” one of the researchers told Scientific American Magazine, “but what we are working on is quite surprising and encouraging. It’s a very different concept from what has been done before, clearly showing that what is really important is to promote a highly functional state during training.”