While there is no way to completely reverse damage to the spinal cord, an experimental oral drug has improved limb movement in mice, showing promise for a similar therapy in humans.
Scientists at Ohio State University used a small molecule to prevent the death of cells called oligodendrocytes. These cells surround and protect nerve fibers, or axons, by wrapping them in myelin, an essential material that allows for the rapid transmission of signals between nerve cells.
The experimental drug--called LM11A-31--preserved the oligodendrocytes by inhibiting the activation of a protein called p75, which is linked to the death of these specialized cells after a spinal cord injury. When they die, axons that are supported by them degenerate. The drug did not increase pain and showed no toxic effects to the mice. The research is published in the Jan. 9 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.
Currently, the most common drug used to treat spinal cord injuries--a steroid called methylprednisolone--must be administered intravenously within 8 hours but not more than 24 hours after the injury to be effective. Typically, treatment requires more than one therapy, including invasive surgery. The benefit of LM11A-31 is that is allows a relatively long therapeutic window, according to the researchers.
Sung Ok Yoon, an associate professor of molecular and cellular biochemistry at Ohio State University and lead author of the study, told FierceBiotechResearch that's precisely why her team targeted the oligodendrocytes. The hope is that spinal cord injury patients could take the oral drug after that 24-hour window of time.
About 1.3 million people in the U.S. are living with spinal cord injuries, which can cause complications such as bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction and chronic pain, and in the worst cases, paralysis.
- here's the release
- read the abstract