What are the treatment options for spinal cord injuries?
Brain and spinal cord injuries are some of the most serious injuries suffered by Americans nationwide. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCSC) estimates that 17,000 people sustain a spinal cord injury each year. Brain injuries are even more common, with over 275,000 people hospitalized with brain trauma annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the past, a severe spinal cord injury was almost certain to lead to paralysis. Similarly, traumatic blows to the head would inflict lifelong damage. Now, medical advances are revolutionizing the treatment of spinal and brain injuries, with gene therapy among the latest promising procedures.
The LZK Gene
At UT Southwestern, a group of scientists have made an important discovery involving the LKZ gene found in astrocytes, which are supportive cells in the body. Working with mice, the researchers found that by deleting the LZK gene, it reduced the astrogliosis. This lead to an increase in the resulting wound. By overexpressing the LZK gene in the astrogliosis, the mice experienced a more effective recovery and smaller scars.
Accordingly, researchers believe that gene therapy with the LZK gene could limit inflammation and promote healing, which is of critical importance in the early days of a spinal cord or brain injury. While scientists have long understood that astrocytes were associated with brain and spinal cord recovery, this is the first time researchers have identified the trigger for these cells.
Treatment Options for Brain and Spinal Cord Injuries
Gene therapy offers cutting edge treatment options for both spinal cord and brain injury sufferers, but it is far from the only new treatment option out there. Stem cells have emerged as a means of treating spinal cord injuries in paralyzed individuals, with some studies suggesting that stem cell therapy can lead to increased motor function even where all sensation had been lost. In the realm of brain injuries, researchers are exploring the use of an antiviral medication to reduce feelings of anger and frustration that often follow a traumatic brain injury, thereby allowing the sufferer to return to previous emotional levels.
Spinal cord and brain injury sufferers should stay abreast of the new research emerging almost daily concerning treatment options. Anyone who has suffered a catastrophic injury due to the fault of another should consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.