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.’
Tiny pieces of plastic, now ubiquitous in the marine environment, have long been a cause of concern for their ability to absorb toxic substances and potentially penetrate the food chain. Now scientists are beginning to understand the level of threat posed to life, by gauging the extent of marine accumulation and tracking the movement of these contaminants.
Testing the safety of medicines and chemicals on organ-like structures developed from various types of stem cells could reduce the reliance on animal testing and streamline chemical and drug development, according to scientists in the Netherlands who are in the early stages of developing such technology.
The world’s largest radio telescope, known as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and situated over two continents, will be able to detect the first stars and galaxies emerging from the ‘murk’ at the beginning of the universe and much more besides, according to Professor Phil Diamond, Director General of SKA. He spoke to Horizon at the opening of the Shared Sky art exhibition in Brussels, Belgium on 16 April, where indigenous artists from SKA host nations South Africa and Australia use traditional painting and folk art to explore the themes of astronomy, spirituality and a borderless sky.
Electric ferries and digital communication between ships could help in the quest to decarbonise maritime transport, a sector which is often perceived as being the green option but could still do much to lower its environmental footprint.
Tiny plastic particles could impact human health.
Astronomers could use giant radio telescope from 2025.
The EU’s research chief on his new role.