Sometimes due to spinal cord injury, some people may never walk again, or at least that’s the current reality we are living in. We have seen some advancements in robotics where researchers have created exoskeleton suits that will help people who are paralyzed to walk, but it’s expensive and bulky.
But what if there was a way for medical science that could help paralyzed people walk again without the need for external contraptions? That’s what researchers Samuel Stupp from Northwestern University in Chicago and his colleagues have done, where they created a material made out of protein units that can self-assemble into long chains.
This material, when injected into the spinal cords of mice who have been paralyzed, helped form a gel at the injury site. The researchers discovered that this gel helped to regenerate the severed ends of neurons and reduced scar tissue, which was one of the barriers of regeneration. It also helped enhance blood vessel growth and provided more nutrients to the spinal cord cells.
Ultimately, this resulted in the mice being able to walk again after four weeks of having been given the injection. That being said, it wasn’t as if these mice were up and running again after four weeks. The test used to measure the ability to walk was based on ankle movement, body stability, paw placement, steps, stride width, and stride length.
We expect that further testing and experimenting needs to be done before we can see similar treatment being used on humans, but so far it sounds rather promising.