Researchers find possible breakthrough to relieve pain following spinal cord injury

November 30, 2011

A collaborative research group – led by researchers at Cleveland Clinic – published findings that indicate a one-time injection immediately after spinal cord injury can limit pain for an extended period of time.

Fibronectin – a protein that exists naturally in humans – supports the survival, growth and communication of neurons in the brain and spinal cord. The researchers discovered, through testing in an animal model, that an injection of fibronectin into the spinal cord activates specific signaling pathways and results in pain-curbing effects.

"We are very pleased with the results from the fibronectin injection," said Ching-Yi Lin, Ph.D., a researcher in the Department of Neurosciences in Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute. "Perhaps this will signal a change in pain management after spinal cord injury."

Previous research has shown that spinal cord injury increases the permeability of the blood-spinal cord barrier, causing chronic pain due to exposure of the spinal cord to inflammatory cells. Pain is a particularly important problem after spinal cord injury since the type of pain that ensues after a spinal cord injury is considered even more debilitating than the paralysis itself.

The findings were published in the December issue of the Journal of Neurotrauma and were presented at the annual meeting of Society of Neuroscience. This is a collaborative project between Lin and Yu-Shang Lee, Ph.D., both of the Department of Neurosciences in Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute; Vernon Lin, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Cleveland Clinic; and Jerry Silver, Ph.D., Department of Neurosciences, Case Western Reserve University.

While the exact mechanisms underlying the possible fibronectin connection to the relief of chronic pain are not clear yet, results show that fibronectin not only maintained the integrity of the blood-spinal cord barrier but also suppressed the inflammatory response significantly over an eight-month period. Researchers found that fibronectin reversed spinal cord injury-induced decreases in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in pain perception.

The next stage of the study is to test the delayed fibronectin treatment on the inhibition of chronic pain after spinal cord injury, which is more clinically relevant. There is an indication that this treatment also works at later time points.

Explore further: Research offers hope in new treatment for spinal cord injuries

Related Stories

Spinal cord treatment offers hope

November 18, 2011

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researchers have developed a promising new treatment for spinal cord injury in animals, which could eventually prevent paralysis in thousands of people worldwide every year.

Recommended for you

Why the lights don't dim when we blink

January 19, 2017

Every few seconds, our eyelids automatically shutter and our eyeballs roll back in their sockets. So why doesn't blinking plunge us into intermittent darkness and light? New research led by the University of California, Berkeley, ...

Curb your immune enthusiasm

January 19, 2017

Normally when we think of viruses, from the common cold to HIV, we want to boost people's immunity to fight them. But for scientists who develop therapeutic viruses (to, for example, target cancer cells or correct gene deficiencies) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.