Can cats teach us how to improve human spine injury treatment?

On Behalf of | Dec 5, 2023 | Injuries |

Treating spine injuries can be particularly challenging. Unlike other bodily tissues, the spine struggles to repair itself, prolonging recovery.

However, recent research from universities here in Georgia focused on understanding cat spinal cord function and somatosensory feedback offers promising insights that could lead to innovative treatments.

Spinal cord injury recovery

Injuries to the spine can cause life-altering effects. Symptoms depend on the injury’s location and severity but may include:

  • Loss of movement
  • Loss of sensation
  • Uncontrolled reflex activities or spasms
  • Pain and discomfort

Currently, treatments for spinal injuries focus on preventing further injury. The goal is to help people with spine injuries return to active and productive lives. Rehabilitation can be helpful for people with spinal cord injuries. Recovery often requires a multifaceted approach.

Physical therapy helps strengthen muscles and enhance mobility. Likewise, occupational therapy focuses on refining fine motor skills. Patients often must relearn self-care techniques and strategies for managing pain. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are essential during rehabilitation. Additionally, functional electrical stimulation can help restore or improve various functions.

Research and future treatments

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology, in collaboration with the University of Sherbrooke and Drexel University, are helping uncover potential new treatments for spinal injuries. By studying cat locomotion, they can understand human spinal cord function better.

The focus of this research is somatosensory feedback. This type of feedback is important for coordinated movement. The study showed that cats, like humans, rely on somatosensory feedback for balance. Based on these findings, researchers are developing computational models to understand spinal network coordination better. These studies can help develop improved treatments for spine injuries in the future.

Recovering from a spine injury is currently a difficult process. Georgia researchers are working to improve medical care for people with spinal cord conditions.


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