Spinal cord injury causes permanent changes in body functions supported by the spine such as strength, body functions, sensation and other symptoms. Hope of recovery process is long and difficult, and the chance for rehabilitation is slight to none.
Now a new Tel Aviv University study finds the intravenous injection of a potent enzyme, just hours after an accident, has the potential to diminish a cascade of pathological events responsible for neuronal death, such as inflammation and scarring.
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The new study published in the Journal of Neurotrauma states that an injection of a potent enzyme into the spinal cord intravenously, just hours after an incident, can make a difference.
Dr. Yona Goldshmit of TAU said the purpose of the study was to block the body’s natural reaction to spinal cord injury. “Primary mechanical damage to spinal cord tissue kills a certain amount of neuronal cells,” he said. “But there’s secondary damage due to the release of excess glutamates, which are responsible for additional functional disability. The main idea is to reduce the secondary damage as soon as possible — to block the body’s natural reaction to spinal cord trauma. This is the role of the enzyme injection we devised.”
“When this new treatment will be available to paramedics, the consequences of injuries could be dramatically reduced,” Dr. Angela Ruban added.
According to the study, the enzyme treatment was tested on mice over the course of five days. The animals showed significant recovery from the injury.
Dr. Ruban said in a statement, “The treatment increased the survival of neurons at the lesion site and enabled axonal regeneration into the injury site, which resulted in significant functional recovery compared with the untreated mice. This indicates that drug intervention with blood glutamate scavengers following spinal cord injury may be neuroprotective and may create a regenerative environment.”
“Don’t wait to diagnose”
“‘Don’t wait to diagnose it,” Dr. Ruban said. “Treat it. It’s similar to aspirin, which can rescue a cardiac patient from irreversible damage if taken within the first few hours of a heart attack. We suggest administering the injection even in cases of an uncertain diagnosis. There’s no side effect to the injection, but it might just mitigate secondary damage and dramatically improve the quality of a person’s life.”
According to the research, neurotrauma produces the immediate elevation of extracellular glutamate levels, which leads to inflammation, scar formation and, consequentially, neuronal death.
Dr. Ruban worked with the late Prof. Vivian I. Teichberg of the Weizmann Institute of Science to develop a treatment based on controlling the levels of glutamate, the most abundant free amino acid in the central nervous system.
“Our new treatment aims to lower levels of glutamate, which is released in toxic quantities after trauma, by intravenous administration of blood glutamate scavengers (BGS), such as recombinant enzyme glutamate‐oxaloacetate transaminase (rGOT1) and its co‐substrate,” Dr. Ruban says.
“If we manage to reduce the amount of glutamate that is released initially, we can moderate the inflammation and scarring, thereby moderating the damage to the tissue and enabling neuronal cells to survive,” Dr. Goldshmit adds.