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Research could help spinal cord patients regain function

There may be some signs of hope for Michigan residents with spinal cord problems. Scientists from Boston Children's Hospital are working on a way to help paralyzed patients regain the ability to walk. Their research study examines ways to revitalize undamaged nerve pathways in the spinal cord.

Paralysis occurs when the neurons in the spinal cord become severed and are no longer able to transmit movement commands from the brain. However, most spinal cord patients only suffer partial nerve damage, meaning some neural pathways remain intact. Despite this, around 50 percent of patients suffer total paralysis and the loss of sensation. For the study, researchers set out to determine why this occurs and if it could be remedied.

Researchers used paralyzed mice to test 10 different compounds that had the potential to excite dormant nerves and allow them to begin sending messages again. One Canadian-developed compound proved to be the most promising. The compound can cross the blood-brain barrier, which means it could be given to humans via an IV injection. Currently, electrical epidural stimulation is the only spinal cord treatment that is proven to revitalize undamaged nerve cells. However, the benefits of the treatment end as soon as the electrical stimulation stops. An injection could help the nerve cells continue to function for longer periods of time.

Many spinal cord injuries are caused by car accidents. Individuals who suffer serious back injuries due to the actions of a negligent driver might have grounds to take legal action. For example, an attorney could help an injured victim file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who caused the crash and/or the driver's insurance company. This could lead to a financial settlement that covers medical expenses, lost wages, mental anguish and other related damages.

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