Animal rights activists get very hot and bothered when scientists use adorable critters for research. Like when they test a new version of Windex by spraying it up a rhesus monkey’s ass and then nod slowly and check boxes on their clipboards.
But what these activists fail to recognize are the tangible benefits that arise from these experiments. For every rat that has his spine severed in a laboratory experiment, there is another who has his spine severed in a laboratory experiment and then is then made to run again via electric shocks and drugs.
And that’s a good thing, says science:
Consistent electrical stimulation and drugs enabled the rats to walk on their hind legs on a treadmill — bearing the full weight of the body — within a week of being paralysed.
With the addition of physical therapy, the rodents were able after several weeks to walk and run without stumbling for up to 30 minutes, reported the study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
Remarkably, the animals could adjust their movements in response to stimuli despite the lack of signals to and from the brain: when the treadmill was reversed, for example, the rats walked backwards.
“This means that the spinal network is almost capable of cognitive processing,” explained Gregoire Courtine, a professor at Zurich University.
Naturally, the researchers cite this experiment as a breakthrough that will improve the lives of humans with spinal injuries. I say it explains why rats are extra scary in lighting storms.