Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New hope?

Scientists at Purdue University have found that an experimental drug may be able to restore function in people who have experienced spinal cord injury, and may be beneficial for those with multiple sclerosis as well. The medication prevents short circuits in the damaged nerves.
A type of spinal cord trauma called compression injury is the type of injury responsible for many spinal cord injuries. In a compression injury, the nerves are not severed, so they are easier to work with. The compound is called 4-aminopyridine-3-methyl hydroxide, and in guinea pig spinal cord tissue, it showed restored function to damaged axons.
Riyi Shi, a professor in Purdue University said the findings were made possible because of the cooperation at Purdue. The research was completed by many scientists from the medicinal chemistry, physical pharmacy, biomedical engineering, chemistry, and neurology departments.
The researchers stressed the spinal cord tissue to duplicate what happens in a compression injury that often results in paralysis. After, they treated the damaged cells with 4-aminopyridine-3-methyl hydroxide. The axons, which are covered in myelin, which is a fatty insulation that is damaged in spinal cord trauma, shrinks when injured. The experimental drug prevents the uninsulated nerves from leaking electrical current. This improves the conduction of electricity around the spinal cord.
The new drug is much more potent than previous medications used to treat MS.
“The compound could make it possible to sidestep spinal cord damage by enabling axons to transmit signals as though they were still sheathed in myelin. As a result, the damaged nerves perform more like healthy nerves than those treated with other drugs,” Shi said.
The research, which was featured in the November issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology, was funded by the Purdue Research Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

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