BOSTON, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- A naturally-occurring purine nucleoside improved restoration of motor function in a small study with primates that sustained brain injuries, suggesting the treatment could work for humans with similar impairments.
Inosine, a substance released by cells in response to metabolic stress, allowed rhesus monkeys to regain the same function in their hands that existed before sustaining a brain injury, report researchers at Boston University.
Echoing earlier studies with rodents, the new study shows inosine helped the brain rewire lost connections between neurons in treated monkeys.
"In the clinical context, the enhanced recovery of grasp pattern suggests that inosine facilitates greater recovery from this type of cortical injury and motor impairment," Dr. Tara Moore, a researcher in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology and Department of Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a press release. "To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate the positive effects of inosine for promoting recovery of function following cortical injury in a non-human primate."
For the study, published in the journal Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, researchers created injuries in areas of eight monkeys' brains that control their favored hand. The researchers then treated four monkeys with inosine and four with a placebo, without telling lab staff which monkeys had been treated for 14 weeks after the surgeries.
While both sets of monkeys regained some function of their favored hand, three of the four receiving inosine regained full function of the hand based on hand strength, digit flexing and maturity of grasp pattern.
The researchers continue to study the monkeys for continued recovery, but suggest testing the method with humans based on the apparent success with primates.
"Given the effectiveness of inosine in promoting cortical plasticity, axonal sprouting, and dendritic branching, the present evidence of efficacy after cortical injury in a non-human primate, combined with a long history of safe use, indicates a need for clinical trials with inosine after cortical injury and spinal cord injury," Moore said.