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Paralyzed Muscles Resume Function With New Technique Using Light-Activated Neurons From Stem Cells

Paralyzed Muscles Resume Function With New Technique

Scientists from UCL and King’s College London have developed a new way to control muscles artificially by using light. The process will help in restoring the functions to muscles paralyzed by spinal cord injury, motor neuron disease and other similar conditions.

In the new process of restoring function to muscles the scientists use the technique of transplanting specially-designed motor neurons created from stem cells into the injured nerve branches.

Paralyzed Muscles Resume Function With New Technique

Image: Diagram showing how the system works (credit: Barney Bryson)

The specially-designed motor neurons can read to pulses of blue light and this helps the scientists in fine tuning the muscle control by adjusting the frequency, duration and intensity of the light pulses.

The method has been demonstrated in mice by the scientists and findings have been published in the Science journal this week.

Co-author of the study who led the research, Professor Linda Greensmith, said they found previously paralyzed leg muscles started functioning.

Prof. Greensmith is from MRC Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases at UCL’s Institute of Neurology. He added further that the new strategy has shown significant advantages over the existing techniques that make use of electricity to stimulate nerves.

The electricity technique is very painful and it also usually end up with rapid muscle fatigue. Also, in disease or injury the existing motor neurons are lost and hence the existing technique rendered becomes useless as those are lost too.

The muscles are controlled by motor neurons and it relays signal to muscles from the brain to bring the motor functions like standing, walking and also breathing.

Source: University College London

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