April 22, 2010

Blocking Genes Could Help Repair Spinal Damage

By combining a generic diabetes drug with a gene-slicing technique, doctors can help stop spinal injuries from worsening, according to a report published on Wednesday.

The research team, which was led by University of Maryland neurosurgery professor J, Marc Simard, claim that the process effectively turns off a gene will stop bleeding in the spine and prevent spinal cord damage from worsening or spreading. Furthermore, they claim that the methodology could also help those who have suffered traumatic brain injuries or had strokes.

Simard told Reuters Health and Science Editor Maggie Fox that spinal cord or cerebral injuries can cause capillaries to burst, which in turn causes a gene known as ABCC8 to start a wave of chemicals that, while supposed to heal the damage, often make it worse.

However, by using antisense gene-blocking therapy, which includes a diabetes medication known as glyburide, it can block the destructive protein/chemical substance. Simard's team tested their theory in mice and rats and found that the effects of spinal damage were far lessened when ABCC8 was not present. They also discovered the gene active in the spinal cords of seven individuals who died within five days of receiving injury to the area.

"I think we are pretty darn close to a clinical trial," Simard told Fox in a phone interview on Wednesday, adding that Remedy Pharmaceuticals is making a special version of glyburide that will allegedly be able to help block both the gene and the dangerous protein it produces. "My hope is eventually you could get it into the ambulance."


On the Net:

Science Translational Medicine

J. March Simard

Remedy Pharmaceuticals