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Antibiotic provides promise in treatment of spinal cord injuries

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and Children's Hospital Boston (CHB) have found that a commonly prescribed antibiotic could be used to help prevent paralysis and other long-term functional deficits associated with a partial spinal cord injury (SCI). Researchers in the field have known that a significant proportion of paralysis and long-term functional disorders associated with SCI are triggered by post-trauma tissue loss. Administering the antibiotic, minocycline, to rats within the first hour after a paralyzing injury has been shown to reduce this tissue loss and ultimately enable more hind-leg function, the ability to walk with more coordination, better foot posture and stepping, and better support of body weight than untreated controls. The findings are published in the March 2, 2004 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The BWH/CHB researchers found that minocycline reduces later-stage tissue loss by blocking release of a protein known as mitochondrial cytochrome c. Yang D. Teng, MD, PhD, of the joint BWH/CHB neurosurgery program and co-lead author of the study, notes that other experimental agents can prevent later-stage tissue loss, but must be given immediately after or even before SCI to be effective. "The field has badly needed to develop a drug that could be used in a practical manner," said Teng.

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, approximately 250,000 to 400,000 individuals in the United States currently have spinal cord injuries with more than 11,000 individuals each year impacted by a spinal cord injury. Ninety percent of these injuries are partial meaning that the spinal cord is damaged but not severed, as in the current study.

"These research results are exciting in that they demonstrate a novel post-trauma strategy in the form of a safe, FDA-approved drug that could serve as a prototype drug for developing better therapeutic strategies to improve quality of life for p
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Contact: Susan Craig
susan.craig@childrens.harvard.edu
617-355-8834
Children's Hospital Boston
24-Feb-2004


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