First, this is one super cute picture of a rat. But the rat is not doing it for cute, because it's actually demonstrating an impressive medical treatment. A few weeks ago, the adorable rat was paralyzed with a spinal cord injury.
The researchers over at the EPFL have developed a special electrochemical treatment that will help treat paralysis by encouraging the brain to re-wire some of its neural networks to different tasks. The newly assigned tasks in this case was to take control of limbs that were previously paralyzed.
The rats were injected with a series of chemicals that bond the receptors on their spinal cord's neurons and these chemicals allow the dead spinal cord to be receptive to stimulation from electrodes implanted in the rat's spinal canal.
Given time, the stimulation will awaken the spinal cord's neurons, and in turn allows the spinal cord to basically learn how to move and function again. Its fascinating!
The treatment required the rat to undergo physical therapy, which is why you see the cute little fella using its paralyzed hind legs to walk on a treadmill. In just a couple weeks of training, the paralyzed rats were able to once again take their first steps on their hind legs, and six weeks after, walk for long periods on their own.
The treatment is still a long way to go from here, but its really a huge step in helping people who have been paralyzed with spinal cord injury. The results, are truly promising. Clinical trials will start on humans in two years. [EPFL via Popular Science]