For nearly 50 years, a jawless fish called the lamprey has interested scientists because of its remarkable ability to recover from spinal cord injuries. A new study reveals a possible technique lampreys may use to swim again, despite sparse neural regeneration.
Christina Hamlet of Bucknell University and collaborators, including Jennifer R. Morgan of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), used a mathematical model to demonstrate how lampreys may use body-sensing feedback to regain swimming abilities after spinal injury. The study could inspire new therapeutic approaches in humans or algorithms for locomotion in soft robots. The paper is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The punchline of the paper is that even in the absence of descending command across that [spinal] lesion, you can boost the sensory feedback and restore locomotion,” said Morgan, MBL Senior Scientist and Director of the MBL’s Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering.