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Biotech Medicine

Damaged Spinal Cord "Rewires" Itself With Help of Electrical Stimulation 30

the_newsbeagle writes: Many prior experiments that tried to restore function after a spinal cord injury have used electrical stimulation to replace the signals from the brain, essentially implanting a replacement nervous system. But a new project instead used electrical stimulation to encourage the natural nervous system to adapt to a severe injury. When researchers repeatedly jolted a rat's damaged spinal cord at the precise moment that it tried to move a paralyzed limb, its nervous system developed new neural pathways that detoured around the site of injury in the spine. Researchers don't think it grew new neurons, but think instead that new connections formed between surviving neurons.
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Damaged Spinal Cord "Rewires" Itself With Help of Electrical Stimulation

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  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @11:50AM (#50525517) Homepage

    Frankenstein [wikipedia.org].

    • You know, since Galvani discovered you could make a dead frog twitch with electricity, people have been looking for the magical properties of electricity. The sheer amount of quackery involving electricity is mind boggling

      Nerves and neurons are, essentially, little electrical connections.

      So, yeah, I'm not sure why anybody would be surprised by that.

      Or that there's actually some useful things which can come out of it too.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm glad the medical industry is starting to catch up with the sex industry. People into advanced sexual practices already know if you stimulate another part of the body in the same way and time as you stimulate your genitals you'll eventually be able to orgasm from just stimulating that other part of your body.

    The brain can adapt to almost anything as long as there's a feedback loop. Adding the electrical stimulation greatly enhances that feedback loop. Think of carving out a stream with a trickle of wa

  • by macs4all ( 973270 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @01:20PM (#50526103)
    There is a recent story [guardianlv.com] about a man regrowing a chopped-off fingertip (bone, flesh, fingernail, even fingerprint!) when he put some "extracellular matrix" derived from pig bladder tissue (which is normally a waste product) onto his fingertip-stub.

    So, I wonder if this would work with spinal-cord injuries, and possibly enhanced with electrical stimulation.
    • The challenge there is actually getting the extra cellular matrix into the spinal cord while avoiding infection and other possible complications.
      • The challenge there is actually getting the extra cellular matrix into the spinal cord while avoiding infection and other possible complications.

        I'm not sure what infections there would be; the extracellular matrix is sterile (I think). As for "other complications", perhaps this could even be done laproscopically, to minimize intrusion/complications.

    • Highly doubtful. Extra-cellular matrix derived from pig's bladder (referred to by researchers as "pixie dust") is essentially collagen, and retards the scarring process that ends skin and sub-dermal tissue regeneration. This is not the same, though, as encouraging neurons to regenerate or even just to rewire.

  • I sure hope they find some serious advancements in this before that guy gets his head transplant in 2017, which was announced just the other day.

  • Although not scientifically documented as such I can personally confirm this appears to be the case.

    After I damaged my spinal cord I had to take a series of tests to verify my nerve conductivity and signal strength was okay. I took these tests over a year and my last series showed, without a doubt, that my nerves had created new connections to essentially get around the damaged areas. I had regained signal strength.

    I didn't have stimulation, just the testing so I think in my case it was just regular heali

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