June 1, 2012
LONDON — Scientists in Switzerland have restored full movement to rats paralyzed by spinal cord injuries, in a study that might eventually be useful for 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 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 whether a similar technique could help people with spinal cord damage. But he adds the technique does hint at new ways of treating paralysis.