Neurons have been identified that allow paralytics to walk again

His exploits have been talking about him for a few months: thanks to a revolutionary method, a Swiss laboratory, NeuroRestore, manages to make partially or totally paralyzed people walk again! In an article published Wednesday in the journal Nature, a team co-led by its two directors details the results of this clinical trial which has already been proven on nine patients. And announces a decisive step: the precise identification of the neurons that allow you to perch on your two legs and move forward, a promise of future good news for people who suffer from this type of disability.

To regain the ability to walk, the nine people with chronic spinal cord injuries were treated with electrical stimulation. All patients showed an improvement in their mobility after five months of rehabilitation. But, for the researchers, the mechanism behind this feat was unclear. Since variations in neuronal activity during treatment raised awareness, French neuroscientist Grégoire Courtine, Swiss neurosurgeon Jocelyne Bloch and their team investigated whether specific neurons were involved in the return to walking. . To do this, they had to use a mouse spinal cord model.

3D mapping

The researchers thus produced a 3D map of the spinal cord, which enabled them to observe the recovery process at the cell level. This revealed a surprising property of a gene-expressing family of neurons, Vsx2. While these neurons would not be useful for a mouse with full possession of its faculties, they would, on the other hand, make it possible to recover motor function after a spinal cord injury.

Thanks to implants, the researchers notably stimulated the spinal cord of rodents by deactivating the neurons in question. The injured mice instantly stopped walking, while this deactivation had no effect on the non-paralyzed mice, showing that this family of neurons is necessary for repair. Their manipulation would be enough to regenerate the spinal cord, want to believe the scientists. The study authors say, however, that other neurons in the brain and spinal cord contribute to gait recovery. Further studies will therefore be necessary.

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