Spinal cord stimulation paralyzed rats regained mobility


03/06/2012

Some rats with spinal cord injuries were able to walk again and run independently as a result of the special treatment, which included a chemical and electrical stimulation of the nerve cells of the spinal cord and motor exercises in robotic simulator, biologists said.

In most cases, spinal cord injury results in complete or partial paralysis of limbs, regardless of the injury. Scientists are currently developing several methods of treating such injuries. Biologists in most cases, are trying to use stem cells to repair itself connections between parts of the spinal cord. There are in principle other techniques - is connected to the brain via electrode limbs.

With the head of a group of biologists Gregoire Curtin University of Zurich has developed an original technique which allows paralyzed rats regain freedom of movement without the stem cell injections and surgery.

Curtin and his colleagues noticed that even with serious spinal cord injuries a certain portion of the nerve fibers still remains intact. These chains of neurons in the motor system of the body is not involved, but they can switch to a new task.

Group Curtin in 2009 noted that the isolated fragment of the brain of paralyzed rats "came to life" and began to control the movement of the legs alone animal in the chemical and electrical stimulation of neurons. Animal with its movement could not control - in particular, the rats walked on a treadmill is enabled through the work of the spinal cord, but could not move on their own when it is turned off.

Biologists have suggested that the rat can not control their movement due to the fact that the brain in the process of restoring the connection between the brain and the spinal motor neurons did not participate.

To solve this problem, the researchers decided his players to "cheat" - they made a special robot that supports the rat’s body and do not let her off balance.

According to the scientists, this device has created an illusion that the animal’s spine is in good order and that the rodent control their own movement. This causes the brain to produce pulses that control the movement of the limbs, which in turn stimulates to "replace" specialization intact cells in their marrow.

"After only 2 weeks after neurorehabilitation, which included an exercise and electrochemical stimulation, our rats learned not only to walk, but also climb stairs, run, avoiding obstacles," - said Curtin.

As noted by researchers, early yet to say that this method is as effective in humans, but the successful results of the experiment on rats immediately give reason to hope for the best.


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