In an amazing scientific feat, a paralyzed rat was taught to walk again.
First, Courtine and colleagues injected the rats with a chemical cocktail that binds to dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin receptors on the spinal cord’s neurons. This replaced the neurotransmitters that would normally be released in healthy spinal pathways. A few minutes after priming the neurons, the team stimulated the rats’ spinal cords through electrodes implanted into the spinal canal. This sent electrical signals to the roused neurons. Then the rats needed to be trained to use their limbs again. Within a week of their injuries, the rats were on treadmills, forging new neural connections.
Although a human application for this solution is a long way away, clinical trials are on the horizon.