MAY 17, 2020 9:02 AM PDT

Potential Treatment for Brain and Spinal Cord Injury is IDed

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

There are a limited number of treatment options for people that have suffered swelling-inducing injuries to their brain and spinal cord. The condition, called central nervous system (CNS) edema, can only be treated now with a medically induced coma or high-risk surgery. Injuries and trauma that cause this disorder can affect people of all ages, though older people tend to fall more often than younger people and, therefore, suffer more CNS edema. Young people that are impacted often have years of recovery ahead of them.

A new treatment could change the prognosis for the estimated 75 million patients that are affected by CNS edema every year. Reported in Cell by an international team of researchers, an approved anti-psychotic medication called trifluoperazine (TFP) was shown to change tiny water channels in cells called aquaporins, which has a therapeutic effect in a CNS edema model.

When there is a sudden loss of oxygen to the CNS, ions build up in cells, causing water to rush through aquaporins and into cells to reduce this 'saltiness,' swelling the cells. The swollen cells start exerting pressure on the spine and skull, damaging tissue and disrupting the electrical signals that move between the brain and the body.

TFP can stop this process. In a type of brain cell called astrocytes, a protein called calmodulin normally attaches to the aquaporins and sends them to the cell surface, allowing more water in. But TFP stops calmodulin from binding aquaporins, which stops them from moving to the cell surface, preventing the cells from swelling with water. The drug was tested in rats, and a single dose enabled them to recover from an injury in two weeks, while injured but untreated rats spent more than six weeks recovering.

More work will be needed to confirm these findings in people, but it could be a huge benefit to CNS edema patients, especially since the drug has already been approved for a different use. The short-term nature of this treatment - only one dose may be needed for a benefit - also reduces the potential side effects dramatically.

"Every year, millions of people of all ages suffer brain and spinal injuries, whether from falls, accidents, road traffic collisions, sports injuries, or stroke. To date, their treatment options have been very limited and, in many cases, very risky," said Professor Roslyn Bill of the Biosciences Research Group at Aston University.

Researchers have discovered a new treatment for brain and spinal cord injuries by manipulating cell functions using an already-licensed medicine. / Credit: Philip Kitchen, School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University (UK)

"This discovery, based on a new understanding of how our cells work at the molecular level, gives injury victims and their doctors hope. By using a drug already licensed for human use, we have shown how it is possible to stop the swelling and pressure build-up in the CNS that is responsible for long-term harm," Bill added. "While further research will help us to refine our understanding, the exciting thing is that doctors could soon have an effective, non-invasive way of helping brain and spinal cord injury patients at their disposal."

"This is a significant advance from current therapies, which only treat the symptoms of brain and spinal injuries but do nothing to prevent the neurological deficits that usually occur as a result of swelling. The re-purposed drug offers a real solution to these patients and can be fast-tracked to the clinic," said Dr. Zubair Ahmed of the University of Birmingham's Institute of Inflammation and Ageing.

"This novel treatment offers new hope for patients with CNS injuries and has huge therapeutic potential. Our findings suggest it could be ready for clinical application at a low cost in the very near future," added Dr. Mootaz Salman, Research Fellow in Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Aston University, Cell

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAY 30, 2021
Microbiology
The Mechanics of a Gliding Microbe, Revealed
MAY 30, 2021
The Mechanics of a Gliding Microbe, Revealed
Humans have been able to use machines to master movement, but there are many organisms that can get around just fine on ...
JUN 07, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Tumor Growth in NF1 Kids May Begin When Optic Nerve Fires
JUN 07, 2021
Tumor Growth in NF1 Kids May Begin When Optic Nerve Fires
Young children who are born with neurofibromatosis type 1 are at heightened risk of having vision problems because they ...
JUN 15, 2021
Health & Medicine
Enabling biomarker discovery with functional proteomics
JUN 15, 2021
Enabling biomarker discovery with functional proteomics
Clinical biomarkers are critical for the acceleration of curative medicines. The identification of these novel clinical ...
JUN 08, 2021
Neuroscience
Simple Blood Test Can Detect Depression and Underlying Neurodegeneration
JUN 08, 2021
Simple Blood Test Can Detect Depression and Underlying Neurodegeneration
Researchers led by King’s College London have found that levels of a protein known as neurofilament light chain (N ...
JUN 17, 2021
Immunology
How T Cells Sense Dangerous Invaders
JUN 17, 2021
How T Cells Sense Dangerous Invaders
T cells form a major part of our immune defenses, protecting us against the constant barrage of potentially pathogenic p ...
JUN 22, 2021
Immunology
The Brain's Immune Protectors Come from an Unexpected Source: The Skull
JUN 22, 2021
The Brain's Immune Protectors Come from an Unexpected Source: The Skull
The immune system and the nervous system have a love-hate relationship. On one hand, immune protection is critical for s ...
Loading Comments...