Study in rats offer new hope for the paralyzed; rodents with spinal injuries learn to walk again

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In findings that offer new hope to the paralyzed, scientists reported this week that rats with spinal injuries have learned to walk again on their own after intensive treatment that included electric stimulation of the brain and spine.

In the study, published May 31 in the journal Science, a Swiss research team cut—but did not severe completely—the nerve connections to the hind legs in a group of 10 rats. It left them with the use of their front legs, but not their back ones.

Researches then outfitted the rats with small vests that held them upright, coaxed them with cheese, infused the wounded areas with drugs thought to promote growth and stimulated three areas of the brain and spine.

The rats began to take their first steps after two to three weeks of the treatment; after six weeks all the rats could walk on their own.

Another test group that trained more passively on a treadmill did not recover nearly as well. Voluntary motion — hard work combined with sustained stimulation were necessary for the brain to re-establish command over the limbs, researchers found.

“The way I think about it is that there is this little island of spare tissue in the injured area, and the neurons in that island begin to act as a relay center, bypassing the injury,” Dr. Grégoire Courtine, who led the research team, told The New York Times.

Attorneys of Ross Feller Casey, LLP has built a remarkable record of victories in spinal cord injury cases, amassing a long list of seven- and eight-figure verdicts and settlements. They include:
$85 million verdict for medical student who injured his spinal cord in a fall through an open manhole.
$30 million for a 10-year-old girl who suffered permanent paralysis in an automobile crash.
$22.9 million for a man who suffered a spinal cord injury.
$10 million verdict for a man who was misdiagnosed with having Lou Gehrig’s disease when he actually had spinal cord compression.
$6.25 million for a 70-year-old man who suffered paralysis as a result of medical negligence after elective surgery.
$4.5 million for a man who sustained a spinal cord injury as a result of an accident in a swimming pool.

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