Three-step paralysis treatment

Published: October 8, 2004
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Paralysis results from an injury or disease that damages the nervous system, affecting the ability to move or feel. Each year, more than 11,000 people in the United States become paralyzed. Paralysis is traditionally irreversible, but new research could help change that.

Neuroscientist Mary Bartlett Bunge is working at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the University of Miami. She has helped develop a “triple play,” combining three treatments believed to help paralysis when used individually.

Researchers tested this treatment on paralyzed rats and restored their walking ability to up to 70 percent normal function. The animals demonstrated better coordination, foot placement, and stability.

Step One: Rolipram. The Antidepressant Rolipram is injected under the skin at the time of injury, where it travels through the bloodstream. This helps maintain levels of the cell messenger molecule called cyclic AMP. These levels would otherwise drop at the time of injury. Studies have shown Rolipram is safe for humans.

Step Two: Schwann Cells. One week after the injury, Schwann cells are injected into the injury site. Schwann cells are components of the nervous system that cause Myelin to regrow on the spinal cord and on nerves throughout the body. Schwann cells also promote the Regeneration of spinal cord nerve fibers themselves — a vital step in helping paralysis.

Step Three: Cyclic AMP. This is injected soon after the Scwhann cells. It is injected into the spinal cord above and below the Schwann cells. This injection raises the level of cyclic AMP to levels higher than those in the normal spinal cord, encouraging Axon growth.
So far, researchers believe the treatment would help new acute injuries. The combination showed the most benefit from the studies conducted, but Rolipram, already FDA approved, was also somewhat effective when used alone.

“In the 15 years that I have been at The Miami Project to Cure
Paralysis, this is the most exciting and important work that has been done in my laboratory. To see something for the first time is a creative and thrilling experience,” Bunge said.

To learn more, contact:

The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis
1095 NW 14th Terrace
Miami, FL 33136
(305) 243-6001
(800) STANDUP

By: Ivanhoe Broadcast News