Scientists have managed to get paralysed rats to walk again, using a combination of chemicals and electrical stimulation, an achievement that might one day help wheelchair-bound humans.
‘If someone is paralysed in a wheelchair, and they can stand up, walk a few steps at home – it's already a great improvement in their everyday life.’
Grégoire Courtine, a professor at the EPFL in Switzerland
Researchers at NEUWalk, an EU-funded project, developed a chemical cocktail that can help damaged nerves function again. Then they electrically stimulated the spinal cord using electrodes implanted at precise locations. This combination led the spinal cord to regenerate, enabling the paralysed rats to walk.
‘Together, these electrochemical stimulations create a highly functional spinal cord network,’ said project leader Grégoire Courtine, a professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. ‘That means the subject is ready to walk.’
The technique won't be able to remedy all injuries, he says. But it might offer hope to people with damaged spinal cords. ‘If someone is paralysed in a wheelchair, and they can stand up, walk a few steps at home – it's already a great improvement in their everyday life.’
As the first coronavirus vaccines started to be rolled out at the end of a tumultuous 2020, UK officials unexpectedly endorsed stretching the gap between the first and second vaccine dose by up to three months – an approach also considered by other countries.
Professor Martijn Nawijn, an immunologist at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, tells Horizon about his quest to map every cell in a healthy human lung. He says this work should help to understand more about the causes of lung disease - which is comparatively understudied - and should lead to new therapies in the next 15 to 20 years.
There are about 1,500 potentially active volcanoes worldwide and about 50 eruptions occur each year. But it’s still difficult to predict when and how these eruptions will happen or how they’ll unfold. Now, new insight into the physical processes inside volcanoes are giving scientists a better understanding of their behaviour, which could help protect the 1 billion people who live close to volcanoes.
Pragmatic or dangerous – what do the experts say?
Better predictions of volcano behaviour could protect people and infrastructure.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.