Dog paralysis study shows need for customized treatments

January 7, 2015 by Tracey Peake, North Carolina State University

A clinical trial from North Carolina State University involving paraplegic dogs has demonstrated that a one-size fits all approach is not ideal for treating spinal cord injuries. Instead, the study highlights the fact that the population of canine paraplegics – even those with the same type of injury – are very diverse, and that courses of treatment should be equally so. These findings may lead the way to personalized treatments for spinal cord injuries, and hopefully better outcomes for canine and potentially human patients.

Natasha Olby, professor of neurology at NC State University, along with a team of postdoctoral students, conducted a clinical trial involving the drug 4-AP and a derivative of the drug called t-butyl, which was developed by co-author Daniel Smith and the Center for Paralysis Research at Purdue University. 4-AP has been tested on humans for injury, and is currently in use as a treatment for multiple sclerosis. T-butyl, the derivative, has not been tested clinically on humans. Both drugs work by helping damaged nerves transmit signals.

Olby and her team recruited 19 paraplegic dogs for the trial. All of the dogs had suffered similar , and all of them had been injured long enough to rule out any hope of unaided recovery. All dogs were treated with a placebo and both drugs, each for a two-week block of time assigned randomly, to first determine whether the drugs were effective, and then see whether or not there was a difference in efficacy between the two medications. The testing was conducted in a blind trial.

They found that there was little difference in efficacy between the drugs themselves, as both produced a significant improvement in stepping when compared to placebo. However, the difference in levels of response from the dogs in the trial ranged from no improvement to being able to take unassisted steps on a treadmill.

"The question quickly went from 'Do the drugs work?' to 'Why aren't they having similar effects across the board?'" Olby says. "And there are many possible factors to consider – some of the dogs may not have any axons left for the drug to act on, or it may depend upon how long they've been paralyzed or even whether or not they have a genetic predisposition to respond to this treatment."

While Olby is pleased with the progress of the who showed improvement during the trial, she is now focused on determining how best to identify patient populations that will respond best to the treatment. "There is no doubt that either or both of these medications can have an amazing effect on the right patient – but now we have to do the work of finding out what conditions make a patient the right one. If we can do that, we may save both patients and owners a lot of unnecessary frustration."

Olby's findings appear online in the open-source journal PLOS One. Other contributors to the work include veterinary postdoctoral students Ji-Hey Lim and Audrey Muguet-Chanoit, as well as Eric Laber, NC State assistant professor of statistics.

Explore further: Researchers restore coordinated limb movement in dogs with severe spinal cord injury

More information: "Potassium channel antagonists 4-aminopyridine and the t-butyl carbamate derivative of 4-aminopyridine improve hind limb function in chronically non-ambulatory dogs; a blinded, placebo-controlled trial." PLOS One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0116139

Related Stories

Researchers restore coordinated limb movement in dogs with severe spinal cord injury

November 20, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—In a collaboration between the University's Veterinary School and MRC's Regenerative Medicine Centre, scientists used a unique type of cell to regenerate the damaged part of the dogs' spines. The researchers ...

'Use it or lose it' treatment for spinal injuries

January 5, 2015
WEST Australian researchers are taking part in an innovative 'use it or lose it' approach to treating spinal injuries, with the potential to revolutionise the way such injuries are treated.

Do spinal cord injuries cause subsequent brain damage?

November 14, 2014
Most research on spinal cord injuries has focused on effects due to spinal cord damage and scientists have neglected the effects on brain function. University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) researchers have found ...

Dogs join fight against bone cancer

May 15, 2014
(HealthDay)—Man's best friend will be part of an effort to find better treatments for a type of bone cancer in children and young adults, researchers report.

Recommended for you

Gene plays critical role in noise-induced deafness

October 19, 2018
In experiments using mice, a team of UC San Francisco researchers has discovered a gene that plays an essential role in noise-induced deafness. Remarkably, by administering an experimental chemical—identified in a separate ...

Functional engineered oesophagus could pave way for clinical trials 

October 18, 2018
The world's first functional oesophagus engineered from stem cells has been grown and successfully transplanted into mice, as part of a pioneering new study led by UCL.

New findings cast light on lymphatic system, key player in human health

October 16, 2018
Scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation have broken new ground in understanding how the lymphatic system works, potentially opening the door for future therapies.

New model suggests cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitoring possible using pulse waves

October 16, 2018
A large team of researchers from several institutions in China and the U.S. has developed a model that suggests it should be possible to create a cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitor based on measuring pulse waves. ...

Age-related increase in estrogen may cause common men's hernia

October 16, 2018
An age-related increase in estrogen may be the culprit behind inguinal hernias, a condition common among elderly men that often requires corrective surgery, according to a Northwestern Medicine study was published Oct. 15 ...

Income and wealth affect the mental health of Australians, study shows

October 16, 2018
Australians who have higher incomes and greater wealth are more likely to experience better mental health throughout their lives, new research led by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre has found.

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.