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     SPINAL CORD PAGE INJURY  2Some of the findings in these three different areas follow:
    • Stopping excitotoxicity

      When nerve cells die, they release excessive amounts of a neurotransmitter called glutamate. Since surviving nerve cells also release glutamate as part of their normal communication process, excess glutamate floods the cellular environment, which pushes cells into overdrive and self-destruction. Researchers are investigating compounds that could keep nerve cells from responding to glutamate, potentially minimizing the extent of secondary damage.

      Recently, investigators tested agents called receptor antagonists that selectively block a specific type of glutamate receptor that is abundant on oligodendrocytes and neurons. These agents appear to be effective at limiting damage.

    • Controlling inflammation

      Some time within the first 12 hours after injury, the first wave of immune cells enters the damaged spinal cord to protect it from infection and clean up dead nerve cells. Other types of immune cells enter afterwards. The actions of these immune cells and the messenger molecules they release, called cytokines, are the hallmarks of inflammation in the spinal cord.

      IVIG , Steroids and Omega-3 help suppress inflammation.

      Turmeric the household spice also suppress inflammatory responce.

    • Preventing apoptosis

      Days to weeks after the initial injury, apoptosis sweeps through oligodendrocytes in damaged and nearby tissue, causing the cells to self-destruct. .

      By understanding the process of apoptosis, researchers have been able to develop and test apoptosis-inhibiting drugs. In rodent models, animals given a drug that blocks a known apoptotic mechanism retained more ambulatory ability after traumatic spinal cord injury than did untreated animals.

      Once the secondary wave of damage ends, the spinal cord is left with areas of scar tissue and fluid-filled gaps, or cysts, that axons can't penetrate or bridge. Unless these areas are reconnected by functioning nerve cells, the spinal cord remains disabled. Discovering how to bridge the gap between functioning axons and figuring out how to encourage axons to grow and make new connections could be the key to spinal cord repair.
    • This can be done with stem cells.

    • Promoting regeneration

      . In one group of experiments, investigators have implanted tubes packed with Schwann cells into the damaged spinal cords of rodents and observed axons growing into the tubes.

      Fetal spinal cord tissue implants have also yielded success in animal trials, giving rise to new neurons, which, when stimulated by growth-promoting factors (neurotrophins), extend axons that stretch up and down several segments in the spinal cord.
      Stem cells are capable of dividing and yielding almost all the cell types of the body, including those of the spinal cord. Their potential to treat spinal cord injury is being investigated eagerly, but there are many things about stem cells that researchers still need to understand.

    • Stimulating regrowth of axons

      Stimulating the regeneration of axons is a key component of spinal cord repair because every axon in the injured spinal cord that can be reconnected increases the chances for recovery of function.

      Axonal growth isn't enough for functional recovery. Axons have to make the proper connections and re-establish functioning synapses. Guidance molecules, proteins that rest on or are released from the surfaces of neurons or glia, act as chemical road signs, beckoning axons to grow in some directions and repelling growth in others.


    Discoveries in Clinical Research

    Advances in basic research are also being matched by progress in clinical research, especially in understanding the kinds of physical rehabilitation that work best to restore function. Some of the more promising rehabilitation techniques are helping spinal cord injury patients become more mobile.

    • Restoring function through neural prostheses and computer interfaces

      While basic scientists strive to develop strategies to restore neurological connections between the brain and body of spinal cord injured persons, bioengineers are working to restore functional connections via advanced computer modeling systems and neural prostheses. Discovering ways to integrate devices that could mobilize paralyzed limbs requires a unique interface between electronics technology and neurobiology. A functional electrical stimulation (FES) system is one example of this kind of innovative research.

      In the future, researchers expect that these kinds of brain-machine interfaces could be planted directly into the brain using microchips that would do the processing and transmit the results without wires. Work is already being done with hybrid neural interfaces, implantable electronic devices with a biological component that encourages cells to integrate into the host nervous system.

    • Retraining central pattern generators

      Another technique uses an FES bicycle in which electrodes are attached to hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteal muscles to stimulate the pedaling motion. Several studies have shown that these exercises can improve gait and balance, and increase walking speed. NINDS is currently funding a clinical trial with paraplegic and quadriplegic subjects to test the benefits of partial weight-supported walking.

    • Relieving pressure through surgery

       studies have shown neurological improvement without decompression surgery, which has led some to believe that either avoiding or delaying surgery, and using pharmacologic interventions instead, is a reasonable (and non-invasive) treatment for spinal cord injuries.

    • Treating pain

      Pain is treated with IVIg, steroids, turmeric and electrostimulation.

    • Controlling spasticity

      IVIG helps in spasticity.

    • Improving bladder control

      Researchers hope that by combining neuromodulation for reflex incontinence with neurostimulation for bladder emptying, the bladder could be completely controlled without having to cut any sacral sensory nerves.

    • Understanding changes in sexual and reproductive function

      Sperm count in men may or may not change due to spinal cord injury, but sperm motility often does.

      Recent animal studies have revealed what appears to be a neural circuit within the spinal cord that is critical for triggering ejaculation in animal models and may play the same role in humans. Triggering ejaculation by stimulating these cells might be a better option than some of the current, more invasive methods, such as electroejaculation.

    Go to spinal cord section