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Treatment Fixes Spinal Injuries in Dogs

Similar therapy a long way off for humans

FRIDAY, Dec. 3, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A technique that helps heal spinal injuries in dogs may lead the way to future methods of preventing paralysis in humans who've suffered spinal damage.

Purdue University researchers found that injection of a liquid polymer called polyethylene glycol (PEG) within 72 hours of spinal injury prevented serious spinal cord damage in the majority of 19 dogs that received the injection.

"Nearly 75 percent of the dogs we treated with PEG were able to resume a normal life. Some healed so well that they could go on as if nothing happened," researcher Richard Borgens, director of the Center for Paralysis Research at Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"In most dogs, we found a PEG injection within 36 hours can restore sensitivity and even mobility within three weeks. These results are unprecedented in paralysis research," Borgens said.

The findings appear in the December issue of the Journal of Neurotrauma.

The PEG solution prevents injured spinal cord nerve cells from irreversible rupturing. Stopping this process means the nerve cells can then heal themselves.

While this method seems effective in dogs, a similar treatment for humans is a long way off.

"There are significant differences between canine and human spinal cords that must be addressed before this treatment can be applied to people. In dogs, for example, some of the control of walking actually takes place in the spine, while in humans all of this control resides in our brains," Borgens said.

"Additionally, PEG cannot just be used off the shelf -- it must have a high level of purity for it to be effective. This is very promising research, but it won't be available in your hospital for some time," he said.

More information

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons has more about spinal cord injury.

SOURCE: Purdue University, news release, Dec. 3, 2004
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