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Chemical, electric therapy for spinal injuries promising in rats

New scientific findings could someday lead to improved treatment options for people in Los Angeles who have sustained a spinal cord injury. Researchers in Switzerland say they have found a way to allow rats with severe spinal cord injuries walk again.

The research team’s new discoveries build on their 2012 study, which focused on rats they gave partially severed spines, simulating a common form of spinal injury in humans. At that time, the scientists used a combination of chemical and electrical neuron stimulation that allowed the rats to use their limbs again.

This time, the team says, it was able to improve on its methods. The new research gave the researchers the ability to adjust the frequency and amplitude of the electric impulses, which improved the rats’ ability to walk. They could now adjust their gait to traverse different terrains and elevation, even after the scientists had completely severed their spinal cords.

The study suggests that similar therapies could someday help humans living with paralysis regain motion in their limbs, possibly even walk again. Treatments that are currently available usually have limited success in improving the subject’s condition.

A lot of research is going on with the goal of overcoming the effects of spinal cord injuries. Someday, people may not have to live with paraplegia or quadriplegia. For now though, those conditions remain dramatically disabling.

Many people injure their spinal cord through pure accident, but others are paralyzed due to the negligent conduct of someone else, such as a drunk driver or a motorist distracted by their cellphone. Adjusting to a life with the use of some or all of your limbs involves a huge financial, physical and emotional price. One that you should not have to pay by yourself when someone else allowed your injury to happen.

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