The paralyzed walk again!


Reading the title made me think of this – better to have the paralyzed walk again than the dead, eh? This is by no means demeaning to those who suffer from partial paralysis, but rather, what I am trying to say is this – it would be more beneficial to work on technology that get the partially paralyzed moving up and about, instead of working on the nigh impossible dream of reanimating dead bodies that might just literally come back to bite you in the rear end – with results that are far from pretty, according to all the movies and TV series that I have watched so far.

Basically, researchers working at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have managed to successfully make use of electrical and chemical stimulation techniques in order to excite neurons located in the lower spinal cord of previously paralyzed rats, allowing those experimental rodents to walk – and some can even run, whenever it remains suspended by a vest that offers balance while restricting movement to the hind legs only.

There were studies of this kind in the past that paved the way for the possibility of circumventing this severed connection between brain and legs in paralyzed rats through the stimulation of a subject’s spinal cord, although the movement remains involuntary, which means it was thought not to require any form of input from the brain. This new research by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) points to the contrary, where a specialized regime of training, working in tandem with an injection of a chemical solution of monoamine agonists, will enable the rodents to regain voluntary control over their legs.

Obviously, they needed some sort of carrot hanging on the end of the stick, and while I believe that vocal praise from the researchers over at EPFL had something to do with it, the reward of chocolate probably had a stronger “pull” factor.


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