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.’
Nearly 100 years ago scientists developed a vaccine for tuberculosis (TB). Today, there are 10 million new cases worldwide and 1.6 million deaths from the disease every year. Increasingly, these cases are becoming difficult to treat as the bug that causes the disease can be resistant to antibiotics. However, several new TB vaccines are under development and there is growing optimism that a new vaccine will emerge, says Helen McShane, professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, UK. This could save millions of lives, she said, but more work is needed to reassure the general public that vaccines are safe and effective.
When an outbreak strikes, speed is critical. Health workers must act quickly not only to contain and treat an emerging or re-emerging disease, but also to use this window to evaluate potential treatments and vaccines. And the challenge becomes even greater in sub-Saharan Africa when you’re trying to develop new approaches in the face of multiple emerging diseases.
Forests have a special magic for many of us. Steeped in folklore and fantasy, they are places for enchantments, mythical creatures and outlaws. But if they are to survive into the future, they may also need a helping hand from science.
Nature provides people with everything from food and water to timber, textiles, medicinal resources and pollination of crops. Now, a new approach aims to measure exactly what a specific ecosystem supplies in order to incentivise decision-makers and businesses to help combat biodiversity loss.
Tuberculosis is the most common cause of death from an infectious disease.
Computer modelling will also help optimise management techniques.
Entrepreneur Nicklas Bergman on the European Innovation Council.