Thursday, January 10, 2008

Creature from the Black Lageek

Just to lighten the mood a bit. This comes from (Australia) for Monday:
Scientists have figured out how mice can regain some ability to walk after spinal cord injuries, and hope this insight can lead to a new approach to restoring function in people paralysed by similar damage. ...

Mice given partial spinal cord injuries in the laboratory were gradually able over a period of about eight to 10 weeks to regain the ability to walk, although not as well as before the injury, according to the scientists.

After this partial spinal cord injury, the brain and spinal cord underwent a sort of spontaneous rewiring to control walking even in the absence of the long, direct nerve highways that normally connect the brain to the walking centre in the lower spinal cord, the researchers said.
What happened was that the body was able to use "a previously unrecognised mechanism" involving, essentially, redirecting nerve impulses from the usual long nerve paths to a series of other, shorter, nerve paths in undamaged inner parts of the spinal cord. This raises hopes that with better understanding of the mechanism and the development of rehabilitation therapies to stimulate the shift, people with some types of spinal cord injuries can walk again.
"This is not the end of a story. This is the beginning of a story," said Dr Michael Sofroniew, a professor of neurobiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles who led the research.
But it is a beginning. Christopher Reeve would be happy.

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