A recent study published in Science highlights research performed by Swiss scientists in which rats were paralyzed and subsequently able to learn to walk and run again. The scientists were able to shift the way that the brain sent messages to the spinal cord, in the subject rats, by a process called neural reinvention.
Neural reinvention in the subject rats took several weeks to wake up neurons in the spinal cord via injection of several types of neurotransmitters. At first the rats were only able to have involuntary movement of their legs when prodded. Eventually the rats were able to run on their own after many weeks of therapy.
It is unknown how neural reinvention will work on humans or how this will shift views of spinal cord injury from the current neuroregeneration trend (via the use of stem cells). The scientists in this study have determined that neural reinvention is unlikely to work on the most severe spinal cord injuries, with those injuries likely to require neuroregeneration. Neural Reinvention studies on humans are likely to begin in the next few years.
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