The rat you see in the above photo, besides being in an action shot you'd compare to the likes of a 90s training montage, was paralysed with a spinal cord injury just a few weeks ago. Thanks to a special treatment developed by researchers at the EPFL, control over its own limbs has been regained, posing a possible cure to human paralysis.
This was done through a highly advanced electrochemical treatment, in which various chemicals help encourage the brain to re-wire its own neural networks to differently assigned tasks. In the case of the rat, this new task was to take control of the paralysed limbs and as you can see, it worked.
Over time, the originally dead spinal cord began to respond to stimulation from implanted electrodes, which re-awoke the neurons in the spine and brought movement and function back to the originally defunct limbs. Of course, this is much easier said (and written) than done, as this is only the beginning of the process.
The rat now must undergo physical therapy to train the muscles and solidify the re-calibration of the spinal neurons. After the first two weeks, the paralysed rats took their first steps, and after just six weeks had regained the ability to walk for long periods un-assisted.
So the obvious question after successful laboratory tests: is it a viable cure for humans? Maybe. It's far too far in the future to say for sure; but the results are extremely promising. Human clinical trials will begin in two years. We'll keep you posted.
Press Release Source: EFPL