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Uric acid and spinal cord injury treatment

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Uric acid is commonly associated with the excruciatingly painful joint disease known as gout, but it can also play a crucial role in the treatment of spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease, according to Rutgers' Bonnie Firestein.

Firestein, an associate professor of cell biology and neuroscience at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and her laboratory team have reported their discovery in the Early View (online in advance of print) version of the journal Glia.

"In spinal cord injury, as well as stroke, two kinds of damage can occur," Firestein explained. "First there is the physical damage, but this is followed by secondary chemical damage to neurons [nerve cells] by compounds released in response to the trauma. We have found that uric acid can promote an early intervention step in combating this chemical damage through its action on astroglial cells."

Astroglial cells or astrocytes are specialized cells that support neuron function with nutrients and protective buffering.

In addition to the scientific achievement, the research study is a model for student involvement and education. Among the co-authors, postdoctoral associate Yangzhou Du is teaching Firestein more about astroglial cells, while he is learning about neurons from her. Christopher Chen was a Henry Rutgers Honors undergraduate student on the study, and Yuval Eisenberg, a laboratory technician; both now attend medical school. Another student, Chia-Yi Tseng is continuing her graduate studies in Firestein's laboratory.

Uric acid's effects on the health of neurons had been observed by other researchers, but the mechanics of how it confers protection has remained a mystery.

"It is interesting to note that people with gout never seem to develop multiple sclerosis," Firestein said. "In animal models of multiple sclerosi
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Contact: Joseph Blumberg
blumberg@ur.rutgers.edu
732-932-7084 x652
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
3-Jan-2007


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