Friday, May 9, 2014

Veterinary Highlights: Treatments Available For Spinal Cord Injuries And A New Trial

Treatments presently available for spinal cord injuries fall into three categories
  1. biological, such as stem cell therapy
  2. pharmacological, such as anti-inflammatories
  3. physical, such as physical therapy or acupuncture
Iowa State University Veterinary Medical Center is presently studying a promising new treatment with chondroitinase for dogs with spinal cord injuries.

Placing Markers for Gait Analysis.
Image Iowa State University Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center

Chondroitinase is a class of enzymes that catalyze the removal of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans. Chondroitin is a major constituent of cartilage and other connective tissue. Why does it need to be removed? Generally as a clean-up after damage.

In case of spinal cord injuries, the chondroitinase treatment dissolves away some of the scarring tissue that forms at the site of the lesion and blocks the nerve fibers from growing across the damaged region and restoring communication.

The enzyme is injected into the spinal cord.

There had been no reports of negative side effects and the treatment seems very safe. Some good results have been seen, particularly when the treatment was combined with physical therapy.

Dogs selected for the trial are those who are unlikely to recover with conventional therapy.

To me, this is an interesting concept that makes sense. Scar tissue is a double-edged sword. Sometimes you want it but sometimes you don't. In case of spinal cord injuries, you don't. Getting that out of the way in this case seems to be a great idea.

Using an enzyme to take care of it is very creative. 

After all, medicine is largely about affecting one enzyme or another.

Source article:
Chondroitinase Trial for Spinal Injury at Iowa State - Part 1
Chondroitinase Trial for Spinal Injury - Part 2

Further reading:
Chondroitinase Clinical Trial for dogs with severe spinal cord injury

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