In recent experiments, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have found that the same blue food dye known as the compound Brilliant Blue G (BBG), which is found in M&Ms and Gatorade, may reduce damage caused by spinal injuries.
This could be joyous news for sufferers of spinal injuries that have doomed them to a life strapped to a wheelchair and may well be the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that when they injected the blue dye into rats suffering spinal cord injuries, the rodents were able to walk again, albeit with a limp. There was one little, rather odd side affect; the mice temporarily turned blue.
The results of this amazing study, which was built on research originally conducted by the same medical center some six years ago, were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Original research efforts revealed that the spinal cord was rich in a molecule called P2X7, which is also known as “the death receptor.” It derives its scary name from its ability to allow Adenosine-5′-triphosphate (ATP) to latch onto motor neurons and send the signals which eventually kill them.
In the words of lead researcher Maiken Nedergaard, professor of Neurosurgery and director of the Center for Translational Neuro-Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center:
“While we achieved great results when oxidized ATP was injected directly into the spinal cord, this method would not be practical for use with spinal cord-injured patients…We knew we needed to find another way to quickly deliver an agent that would stop ATP from killing healthy motor neurons. The compound we initially used, oxidized ATP, cannot be injected into the bloodstream because of its dangerous side effects.”
While no one can promise a cure for spinal injuries, this treatment can offer the hope of potential improvement for those afflicted. According to Nedergaard, in hospital emergency rooms there is currently no standard procedure when it comes to dealing with patients with spinal injury. This treatment, in order to be effective, requires that a dose be administered immediately after the injury, before the death of additional tissue.
Small steps away from a wheelchair can make all the difference in the world when it comes to outlook, attitude and functionality. With this new treatment, bladder control is possible, improving the quality of life for so many afflicted with spinal injures.
Hope, once severely dimmed, now shines brightly for those whose world has been limited to the confines of a wheelchair.
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