Drug may help restore damaged nerves

Nov. 23, 2009 at 11:33 AM
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Nov. 23 (UPI) -- Purdue University scientists say they've shown how an experimental drug might restore the function of nerves damaged in spinal cord injuries.

Professor Riyi Shi, said the chemical compound prevents "short circuits" caused when tiny potassium channels in the fibers are exposed. And, Shi said, the compound might also be developed as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.

Because nerves usually are not severed in a common type of spinal cord trauma, called "compression" injuries, the drug offers hope as a possible treatment, said Shi, one of the authors of the study.

"Compression is responsible for most spinal cord injuries, including many resulting in paralysis," he said. "Since the nerves are not severed, this type of drug represents a potential golden opportunity to treat spinal cord injuries."

The experimental compound -- 4-aminopyridine-3-methyl hydroxide -- has been shown to restore function to damaged axons, slender fibers that extend from nerve cells and transmit electrical impulses in the spinal cord, the scientists said.

The study, led by doctor student Wenjing Sun, involved experiments with guinea pig spinal cord tissue. The findings appear in the Nov. 18 early online edition of the Journal of Neurophysiology.

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