A new discovery at the University of Alberta will fundamentally alter how we view spinal cord function and rehabilitation after spinal cord injuries (SCI). Neuroscientists found that spinal blood flow in rats was unexpectedly compromised long after a spinal cord injury (chronically ischemia), and that improving blood flow or simply inhaling more oxygen produces lasting improvements in cord oxygenation and motor functions, such as walking.
Previous work had shown that while blood flow was temporarily disrupted at the injury site, it resumed rapidly, and it was more or less assumed that the blood flow was normal below the injury. This turns out to be wrong.
Inhaling less oxygen, known as, boosts the walking abilities of patients with spinal injuries, according to a counterintuitive treatment described today in the journal Neurology.
Scientists fromfound that intermittent, but safe, exposure to hypoxia could improve both walking endurance and speed for patients with spinal injuries that have not completely eliminated the capacity to take steps.