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Restoring mobility Swiss scientists could help paraplegics walk again

Swiss scientists are making great progress in research that should lead to improved mobility for the physically handicapped. (RTS, swissinfo.ch)

At the Center for Neuroprostheticexternal link and Brain Mind institute, part of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), a paralysed rat recently received treatment that enabled it to walk over obstacles and up stairs.

Scientists achieved this by electrically stimulating the severed part of the rat’s spinal cord.

The technology will be tried out on humans next year at a special laboratory at Geneva University Hospital (CHUV). The lab is funded by the canton of Valais and SUVA, the country’s biggest accident insurance specialist.

Specialists at EPFL believe the electrical stimulations could be used in combination with bionic exoskeletons to restore mobility to people who are not completely paralysed.

The question is, who would foot the bill? So far insurance companies have been reluctant to pay for the pricey robots.