Paralyzed Rats Run in Breakthrough Experiment
Application for humans with spinal injuries not far off
By Mat Probasco,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2009 1:19 AM CDT
A lab rat.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Scientists have made paralyzed rats run again by using a new technique that could one day have wheelchair-bound people walking, reports AFP. Rats, whose spinal cords had been severed, ran when scientists applied electrical charges and drugs. "In some cases they actually walked with more consistent locomotive patterns than non-injured animals," said one researcher.

With electrical charges sent directly to the animal's spines, the rats were able to run both forward and backward on a treadmill, even though no signal was coming from the brain to the spine—implying "the spinal network is almost capable of cognitive processing," said a researcher. It's the first time science has been able to restore nearly normal motor function to a paralyzed animal. Human tests are about four years away.