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Gene-Targeted Therapy Might Help Prevent Paralysis
Date:4/21/2010

In rats, approach minimized dangerous bleeding around spinal cord

WEDNESDAY, April 21 (HealthDay News) -- A study in rats is raising new hope for a treatment that might help spare people with injured spines from the paralysis that often follows such trauma.

Researchers found that by immediately giving injured rats a drug that acts on a specific gene, they could halt the dangerous bleeding that occurs at the site of spinal damage.

That's important, because this bleeding is often a major cause of paralysis linked to spinal cord injury, the researchers say.

In spinal cord injury, fractured or dislocated bone can crush or damage axons, the long branches of nerve cells that transmit messages from the body to the brain. But post-injury bleeding at the site, called progressive hemorrhagic necrosis, can make these injuries worse, explained study author Dr. J. Marc Simard, a professor of neurosurgery, pathology and physiology at University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Researchers have long been searching for ways to deal with this secondary injury.

In the study, Simard and his colleagues gave a drug called antisense oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) to rodents with spinal cord injuries for 24 hours after the injury occurred. ODN is a specific single strand of DNA that temporarily blocks genes from being activated. In this case, the drug suppresses the Sur1 protein, which is activated by the Abcc8 gene after injury.

After routine injuries, Sur1 is usually a beneficial part of the body's defense mechanism, preventing cell death due to an influx of calcium, the researchers explained. However, in the case of spinal cord injury, this defense mechanism goes awry. As Sur1 attempts to prevent an influx of calcium into cells, it allows sodium in, Simard explained, and too much sodium can cause the cells to swell, blow up and die.

In that sense, "the 'protective' mechanism is a two
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