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.’
Scientists have discovered that a single severe head injury can lead to dementia through a rogue protein that propagates through the brain and corrupts others, giving some much needed insight into what happens inside an injured brain.
A sister and brother who created shock-activated protective gear featuring a starch liquid for people who in-line skate, motorcycle and do other risky sports, won one of the three first prizes at this year’s European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS).
Winners from Germany and Canada take home top prizes.
New observations may provide alternative explanations for dark energy.
We need to double-check the evidence on dark energy, as it may not exist at all, says Prof. Subir Sarkar.