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Spinal cord breakthrough with acne drug

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University of Calgary researchers working on a spinal cord injury treatment are getting some help from the Man in Motion.

The Rick Hansen Institute is helping to fund work on an old drug that shows new promise treating spinal cord injuries (SCI).

Dr. John Hurlbert, along with co-investigators Dr. Steven Casha and Dr. Voon Wee Yong have found that minocycline — originally used to treat acne — helps restore movement in patients suffering from SCI.

“We looked at this drug in a mouse model and the results were fascinating,” Hurlbert said.

“Not only did their ability to walk improve, but their spinal cords looked better under the microscope.”

Hurlbert said minocycline outperformed the standard treatment for SCI — a drug called methylprednisolone — in mice studies.

The results were published in 2003 in the journal Brain, and the research on mice opened the door for studies on human patients.

Since minocycline has already been prescribed to people for decades, Hurlbert said getting approval to do human trials was easy.

But finding cash for the study wasn’t.

The patent for minocycline has expired, Hurlbert said, which means it wouldn’t be profitable for any pharmaceutical company to fund the research.

But Rick Hansen Institute CEO Bill Barrable said this is just the kind of thing the institute supports.

“Our job is to move knowledge into action,” he said.

“The minocycline research is a good example of our role.”

The institute’s mandate, he said, is to fund research that will help treat SCI.

“We want to pursue things that are going to improve the lives of people with SCI,” he said.

The institute is funding the next phase of the minocycline research, a Canada-wide study involving six institutions and more patients for clinical work

Results of the first studies on humans, Hurlbert said, are currently under review.

The Rick Hansen Institute’s support, Hurlbert added, is invaluable.

“We’re cautiously optimistic about the results we found,” he said.

“If it weren’t for the Rick Hansen Institute, we couldn’t do this research.”

By Sean McCann ,Calgary Sun

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