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New Drug Targets For Spinal Cord Injury?

September 22, 2009

Traumatic spinal cord injury causes permanent disability or loss of movement (paralysis) and sensation below the site of the injury. Currently, there are no treatments that can reverse the damage to the spinal cord, there are only approaches to prevent further damage and to help people return to an active lifestyle. However, Philip Popovich and colleagues, at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, have studied the problem in mice and identified potential new therapeutic targets for minimizing injury and/or promoting repair after traumatic spinal cord injury

Traumatic injury to the spinal cord triggers a series of responses by the body that cause further damage to the spinal cord and additional loss of nerve cell function. One of these responses is activation of immune cells known as B cells. In the study, it was found that following traumatic spinal cord injury, mice lacking B cells showed improved recovery of movement when compared with normal mice. They also had a smaller area of damage in the spinal cord. Further analysis indicated that B cells worsened outcome in the mice by producing molecules known as antibodies and therefore the authors suggest that therapeutics that remove B cells or antibodies or that inhibit B cell responses might be of benefit to individuals who experience traumatic spinal cord injury.

In an accompanying commentary, Gregory Dekaban and Sakina Thawer, at the Robarts Research Institute, Canada, concur that such approaches should be considered, although they caution that studies confirming the importance of B cells in causing damage following spinal cord injury in humans need to be performed.

TITLE: B cells produce pathogenic antibodies and impair recovery after spinal cord injury in mice

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