Scientists in Switzerland have been working with rats in an attempt to see how chemical injections and electronic simulations could affect those who were paralyzed for the experiment. The rats were paralyzed when the doctors cut half way through the spine in two separate places (about an inch apart), which left some of their nerves intact, but rendered their back legs completely useless.
According to Business Insider, during the treatment that followed, there were several components tested out on the rats. First, they were given regular injections of chemicals, the purpose of which was to help their nerve cells communicate. Then they were given electric stimulation, mimicking the impulses sent from the brain to the legs during movement.
During the tests, the rats were placed on a treadmill (and held at the right height with harnesses) and the electronic stimulation caused a reflex with each “step” to force legs to move forward. After about 3 weeks, the rats were moved off of the treadmills, but still maintained the harnesses and electronic stimulation. After only a few more weeks, the rats were able to move their hind legs on their own, though they still relied on the harness for support.
There was a control group of rats who were paralyzed in the same manner, but didn’t go through treatments, but none of the control rats regained movement in their hind legs.
Whether or not the treatment will be able to help humans regain leg movements is still undetermined, due to the complexity of most paralysis injuries. Many tests need to be completed before this type of treatment is considered safe for humans, but these types of tests may be a step in the right direction for those who have a spinal cord injury. However, NBC News states that most doctors agree that even after treatments, people suffering from paralysis would not have full unaided use of their legs. But even a slight improvement can make a big difference in the lives of those who are unable to walk.