New chemical compound could alter lives of car crash victims

When a Massachusetts resident is seriously injured in an automobile accident, the damage done can impact virtually every aspect of his or her life. This is especially true in cases in which a car crash causes spinal injury, as even the smallest amount of damage can create loss of function throughout the body. The recovery process for spinal cord injuries is long and tedious; many patients never regain anything approaching "normal" levels of function. Recent research, however, offers new hope to those who suffer from spinal cord injuries, as well as their loved ones.

Researchers have achieved very promising results in animal trials of a newly developed chemical compound known as intracellular sigma peptide (ISP). When the compound was injected into laboratory rats with severe spinal injuries, more than 80 percent of those subjects were able to achieve activation of previously paralyzed muscle tissue. Specifically, the test subjects were able to regain function in the ability to successfully urinate and in overall mobility.

Spinal cord damage often leads to the development of scar tissue. In the area of scarring, proteoglycans build up. Proteoglycans are essential in maintaining the nervous system's structure, and when they are collected in one area of the brain or spinal cord, normal regeneration is impeded. As a result, the brain cannot send the proper messages to the rest of the body, and normal function of processes such as urination and mobility are severely impaired.

Scientists designed ISP to work around this problem by disabling the collected proteoglycans and allowing the peptide to cross cell membranes, including those that make up scar tissue. In this way, it is believed that ISP was able to allow the brain/body communication within injured lab rats to become re-established. Researchers hope to extend this work into the creation and implementation of therapies for patients who suffer from various types of spinal cord damage.

For those in Massachusetts who have been injured in a car crash, spinal cord damage can be among the most difficult injuries to face. This research has the potential to allow patients to regain a significant measure of lost function, up to and including the ability to regain mobility and control basic bodily functions. As with any significant medical advancement, the ability to benefit from cutting-edge research requires significant financial resources. For many families, those resources come as the result of a personal injury lawsuit.

Source: Fox News, "Compound shows 'extraordinary' promise in restoring muscle function after spinal cord injury", Dec. 3, 2014