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Improving recovery from spinal cord injury
Date:6/9/2010

. They then let the rats recover for another three weeks before assessing the degree of recovery.

Using a well-established, 21-point scale where zero represents paralysis and 21 is normal function, the team of researchers assesed treated and untreated rats for a range of functions including whether they could lift their feet off the ground and whether they had coordinated leg movements. The initial injury rendered all rats to score below four, and all rats, treated or not, recovered somewhat by the end of two weeks. By the end of five weeks after injury most untreated rats scored 12 or less, while most treated rats scored better than 15. "The difference in coordination control was most remarkable," says Schnaar.

In addition to motor control, spinal cord injury can cause other nervous system problems, including losing the ability to control blood pressure and heart rate. To see if sialidase treatment improved nerve connections enough to remedy these problems, the team measured the nerve circuits that control blood pressure in treated and untreated rats. They found that treated animals improved blood pressure control. "We interpret this as improved communication in the spinal cord," says Schnaar.

Finally, the team looked at the nerve ends under a microscope and found that indeed, treated nerves showed an increased number of "sprouted" nerve ends, which according to Schnaar, provided anatomical evidence to add to the functional evidence that "something is going on."

"The positive is that we have shown functional recovery in a relevant animal model of spinal cord injury," says Schnaar. "That being said, we haven't done full toxicity studies on these rats, which definitely needs to be done before we think about taking the long road into using this as a drug in people; efficacy in animals also doesn't necessarily translate to humans."


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Contact: Audrey Huang
audrey@jhmi.edu
410-614-5105
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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