WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A medical test previously developed to measure a toxin found in tobacco smokers has been adapted to measure the same toxin in people suffering from spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis, offering a potential tool to reduce symptoms.
The toxin, called acrolein, is produced in the body after nerve cells are injured, triggering a cascade of biochemical events thought to worsen the injury's severity. Acrolein (pronounced a-KRO-le-an) also may play an important role in multiple sclerosis and other conditions.
Because drugs already exist to reduce the concentration of acrolein in the body, being able to detect and measure it non-invasively represents a potential treatment advance, said Riyi Shi (pronounced Ree Shee), a professor of neuroscience and biomedical engineering in Purdue University's Department of Basic Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Center for Paralysis Research and Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering.
"If the acrolein level is high it needs to be reduced, and we already have effective acrolein removers to do so," Shi said. "Reducing or removing acrolein may lessen the severity of symptoms in people who have nerve damage, but there has not been a practical way to monitor acrolein levels in nervous system trauma and diseases."
The toxin is present in tobacco smoke and air pollutants. A method had been developed previously to detect and measure acrolein in the urine of smokers, but it has not been used in people suffering from conditions in which the body produces acrolein internally.
"Based on this method, it was revealed that acrolein is significantly elevated in smokers and decreases following the cessation of cigarette smoke," Shi said. "However, such a method has not been widely used for conditions in which acrolein is elevated due to central nervous system damage or disease."
The researchers tested the method in laboratory animals.
"We wanted to see if higher levels of acr
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