Researchers observe inflammation in animals
New research suggests that treadmill training soon after a spinal cord injury can have long-lasting positive effects on recovery, as long as the training is accompanied by efforts to control inflammation in the lower spinal cord.
The study was conducted on animals, and is among the first to show that spinal cord injuries can create impairments in parts of the cord located many spine segments away from the trauma site.
Researchers observed signs of inflammation in the lumbar region of the spine, at least ten segments below the mid-back injury, within 24 hours of the trauma. The study suggested that controlling inflammation is critical to the success of treadmill training.
Run of the mill
Mice that received treadmill training just a few days after injury during a period of heightened inflammation got no lasting benefits. In contrast, animals trained on treadmills when inflammation was minimal regained the use of their hind legs to walk and retained those benefits for up to 42 days.
“We got positive and negative effects with the same intervention, and it’s all influenced by inflammation,” said D. Michele Basso, professor of health and rehabilitation sciences at The Ohio State University and senior author of the study. “There’s so much happening so far away from the injury, and it’s all in the heart of where the neural circuits are for locomotion.”
The study showed that an enzyme called MMP-9 has a role in causing the lumbar inflammation. Because previous research has linked this enzyme to cancer, experimental drugs that inhibit it are already in the drug-development pipeline. Common antibiotics also could help control this type of inflammation, researchers say.
“The opportunity is there to begin to think about doing this in humans,” Basso said. The research is published in the August 2013 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.