One of the biggest cause of disability is the nerve damage which is also irreversible as nerve cells do not have the ability to divide or regenerate. As nerve is the ‘pathway’ that connects muscles and brain and enables all body response using muscles, when it’s damaged all muscle function is lost. There has never been any effective cure for this condition but a new research gives a ray of hope.
Neuroscientists and optogenics from London have developed a technique that uses light to restore function to muscles rendered useless due to damaged nerves. In Optogentics, cells are modified to produce proteins that respond to light. With nerve cells, the presence of light would cause them to fire.
Using that observation the researchers modified a group of embryonic stem cells to grow into nerve cells which were then implanted onto the ligated sciatic nerve of the mouse. After the implanted cells integrated with the existing cell, the mouse was cut open again and shone a light on the implant. That caused activation of the leg muscles.
Although experiment proves it to be effective, it can only be used as a therapeutic technique just like electrical stimulation therapy techniques that help regenerate lost nerve cells. So for now it can’t be used as a permanent means to restore the damaged nerve and associated non-functional muscle.
Besides, to be used in humans, scientists have to be sure if it can be applied to an awake person without anesthesia. Also, it’s not yet decided how would the flow of electricity be controlled from cells to muscles. Despite those questions, scientists think it will be proved useful for humans sometime in near future.