Published on:

Lab Rats Walk And Climb Stairs After Severe Spinal Cord Injuries

Researchers have managed to make rats with spinal cord injuries and severe paralysis walk (and run) again. According to, researchers at the University of Zurich injected lab rats with a chemical solution of monoamine agonists. These chemicals trigger cell responses by binding to specific dopamine, adrenaline, and serotonin receptors located on the spinal neurons, replacing neuro-transmitters released by brainstem pathways in healthy subjects and acting to excite neurons and ready them to coordinate lower body movement when the time is right.

Within five to ten minutes the scientists stimulated the spinal cord with electrodes implanted in the outermost layer of the spinal canal, called the epidural space. This epidural stimulation sent continuous electrical signals through nerve fibers to the chemically excited neurons that control leg movement. At such point the rats started moving.

Lead author Grégoire Courtine, who holds the International Paraplegic Foundation Chair in Spinal Cord Repair at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne reported that a stimulated rat spinal column–physically isolated from the brain from the lesion down–developed in a surprising way: It started taking over the task of modulating leg movement, allowing previously paralyzed individuals to walk over treadmills. These experiments revealed that the movement of the treadmill created sensory feedback that initiated walking: in other words, the spinal brain took over and walking essentially occurred without any input from the rat’s actual brain. This surprised the researchers and led them to believe that only a very weak signal from the brain was needed for the animals to initiate movement of their own volition.

Researchers replaced the small treadmill on which rats were put to walk with a robotic device that supported the rats and only came into play when they lost balance, giving them the impression of having a healthy and working spinal column. This prompted the animals to will themselves and reach a chocolate reward placed on the other end of the platform. This “willpower-based” training translated into a tremendous increase in nerve fibers throughout the brain and spine, proving the tremendous potential for neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain and spinal cord to adapt and recover from moderate injury) even after severe central nervous system injury. Researchers found that the newly formed fibers bypassed the original spinal lesion and allowed signals from the brain to reach the electrochemically-awakened spine.

Of course this research is expensive, as will the treatments it may generate turn out to be. We may be able to assist victims of spinal cord injuries caused by accidents recover the money they need for their treatment from those that caused their injuries.

We Can Help

The lawyers at Greenberg Stone and Urbano have more than 67 years of combined experience helping victims of spinal cord injuries that have resulted from car accidents, motorcycle accidents, tractor-trailer accidents, accidents at an amusement park or any other kind of accident caused by someone else’s negligence recover the compensation that may be owed to them.

If you or a loved one have suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of a car accident, a motorcycle accident, a tractor-trailer accident, an accident at an amusement park or any other kind of accident, you should immediately contact a law firm experienced in handling these cases.

Throughout the years, the Miami Dade County Car Accidents Law Offices of Greenberg, Stone & Urbano have represented many clients involved in serious motor vehicle accidents that have caused spinal cord injuries. Visit our website to learn more about our firm and contact us today for a free consultation.

Please note that our practice has been extended with a new satellite office in Aventura to better serve clients that reside in Ft. Lauderdale, Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Dania & Dania Beach, Miramar, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Aventura, Miami Beach, Surfside, Sunny Isles and Miami Gardens.

Contact Information