Thursday, January 04, 2007

Uric Acid May Aid in Spinal Cord Injury Treatment

Uric acid is commonly associated with the excruciatingly painful joint disease known as gout, but it can also play a crucial role in the treatment of spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease, according to Rutgers' Bonnie Firestein.

Firestein, an associate professor of cell biology and neuroscience at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and her laboratory team have reported their discovery in the Early View (online in advance of print) version of the journal Glia.

"In spinal cord injury, as well as stroke, two kinds of damage can occur," Firestein explained. "First there is the physical damage, but this is followed by secondary chemical damage to neurons [nerve cells] by compounds released in response to the trauma. We have found that uric acid can promote an early intervention step in combating this chemical damage through its action on astroglial cells."

Astroglial cells or astrocytes are specialized cells that support neuron function with nutrients and protective buffering.