New findings could help speed recovery, alleviate pain associated with spinal cord injury

October 15, 2012, Society for Neuroscience

Research released today demonstrates how new scientific knowledge is driving innovative treatments for spinal cord injuries. Spinal cord damage is debilitating and life-altering, limiting or preventing movement and feeling for millions worldwide, and leading to chronic health conditions and pain. The new studies suggest potential therapies for managing the aftermath of pain and pressure sores, repairing nervous system damage, and speeding recovery. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2012, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

In the United States, approximately 12,000 people are hospitalized for spinal cord injury (SCI) each year, and at least 270,000 people live with it. The initial injury is usually compounded by a wave of immune activity that can extend the initial nervous system damage, and complications of SCI may include pain and pressure sores that compromise the quality of life. New research is tackling all of these dimensions of SCI.

Today's new findings show that:

  • Nervous system tracts that are left intact but nonfunctioning following SCI appear to be reactivated through , speeding recovery of walking in a (Brian Noga, PhD, abstract 678.12, see attached summary).
  • Painful and sometime life-threatening pressure sores due to immobilizing nervous system injuries may be prevented by underwear wired to deliver tiny electrical currents that contract the paralyzed buttocks muscles, mimicking the natural fidgeting of able-bodied people (Sean Dukelow, MD, PhD, abstract 475.09, see attached summary).
  • Carbon monoxide's anti-inflammatory effects appear to accelerate healing in rats with spinal cord injury, possibly by altering the balance of immune cells and limiting the damage caused by molecules called free radicals (Yang Teng, MD, PhD, abstract 450.11, see attached summary).
  • Social contact appears to lessen the pain that follows injury. A new mouse study correlates the healing social behavior with biochemicals in the brain and spinal cord (Adam Hinzey, abstract 786.04, see attached summary).
"While the damage of SCI can appear to be immediate and dramatic, the biological events that lead to extensive nerve and tissue damage are complex, and injuries evolve over time," said press conference moderator Jacqueline Bresnahan, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco, an expert on nervous system trauma caused by . "Today researchers are finding ways to intervene in the cascade of molecular changes that follow SCI. From understanding immune cell responses to the healing power of social contact, researchers are finding new ways to treat and rehabilitate patients."

Explore further: Realizing the potential of stem cell therapy

Related Stories

Realizing the potential of stem cell therapy

October 15, 2012
New animal studies provide additional support for investigating stem cell treatments for Parkinson's disease, head trauma, and dangerous heart problems that accompany spinal cord injury, according to research findings released ...

Research offers hope in new treatment for spinal cord injuries

May 3, 2011
Rutgers researchers have developed an innovative new treatment that could help minimize nerve damage in spinal cord injuries, promote tissue healing and minimize pain.

Evidence for spinal membrane as a source of stem cells may advance spinal cord treatment

October 28, 2011
Italian and Spanish scientists studying the use of stem cells for treating spinal cord injuries have provided the first evidence to show that meninges, the membrane which envelops the central nervous system, is a potential ...

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.

Spinal cord injuries associated with increased risk of heart disease

October 24, 2011
New research from the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation may help explain why people with spinal cord injury (SCI) have a higher risk of developing heart disease.

Recommended for you

Cognitive training helps regain a younger-working brain

January 23, 2018
Relentless cognitive decline as we age is worrisome, and it is widely thought to be an unavoidable negative aspect of normal aging. Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas, however, ...

Lifting the veil on 'valence,' brain study reveals roots of desire, dislike

January 23, 2018
The amygdala is a tiny hub of emotions where in 2016 a team led by MIT neuroscientist Kay Tye found specific populations of neurons that assign good or bad feelings, or "valence," to experience. Learning to associate pleasure ...

Your brain responses to music reveal if you're a musician or not

January 23, 2018
How your brain responds to music listening can reveal whether you have received musical training, according to new Nordic research conducted in Finland (University of Jyväskylä and AMI Center) and Denmark (Aarhus University).

New neuron-like cells allow investigation into synthesis of vital cellular components

January 22, 2018
Neuron-like cells created from a readily available cell line have allowed researchers to investigate how the human brain makes a metabolic building block essential for the survival of all living organisms. A team led by researchers ...

Finding unravels nature of cognitive inflexibility in fragile X syndrome

January 22, 2018
Mice with the genetic defect that causes fragile X syndrome (FXS) learn and remember normally, but show an inability to learn new information that contradicts what they initially learned, shows a new study by a team of neuroscientists. ...

Epilepsy linked to brain volume and thickness differences

January 22, 2018
Epilepsy is associated with thickness and volume differences in the grey matter of several brain regions, according to new research led by UCL and the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

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.