Saturday, March 13, 2004

Easing the Agony of Spinal Cord Injuries

Neurotoxin reduces pain in rat study

A potent neurotoxin eliminated pain-transmitting rogue nerve cells responsible for chronic pain in rats after they suffered paralyzing spinal cord injuries.

University of Florida scientists report their finding in the online edition of Neuroscience Letters.

This approach is called molecular neurosurgery. The neurotoxin acts on specific sites in the spinal cord, where the neurotoxin is incorporated into nerve cells, which then die.

Eliminating these nerve cells let the scientists greatly extend the time between spinal cord injury and signs of pain behavior in the rats. It also decreased the severity of pain experienced by the rats.

This research may help scientists better understand the mechanisms of pain suffered by people after a spinal cord injury. Up to 80 percent of people who suffer a spinal cord injury develop some form of chronic pain at or below the level of their paralysis.

'Most people think spinal cord injury results in a loss of sensations below the level of injury, but it turns out that spontaneous pain following spinal injury usually is referred to parts of the body below the level of injury, where there is no motor or sensory function,' Robert P. Yezierski, director of the Comprehensive Center for Pain Research, says in a prepared statement.

'The unfortunate thing is we have no long-term effective treatments for this type of pain. This is why we are trying to develop novel approaches. We think that molecular neurosurgery could potentially be an answer for this condition,' Yezierski says."