Researchers have devised a safe and effective way to deliver therapeutic molecules to the cervical spinal cord after injury in female rats. Reported in JNeurosci and, this clinically-relevant approach could help to repair the neural connections that control breathing in spinal cord injury (SCI) patients.
Given its proximity to the brain, damage to the cervical spine — the portion of the spinal cord housed within the neck vertebrae — is among the most serious SCIs. Cervical spine injury can sever the connection between the central nervous system and the breathing muscle that enables inhalation, paralyzing the diaphragm and causing major respiratory dysfunction in these patients.
Angelo Lepore, Yinghui Zhong, and colleagues developed a gel loaded with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which has previously been shown to have the potential to repair the circuitry that controls the diaphragm. The researchers demonstrate the efficacy of local administration of this drug in an established female rat SCI model and show that the BDNF gel preserves diaphragm function by preserving the motor neurons responsible for the muscle’s activation. This new drug delivery system uses materials that are safe for human use while avoiding the side effects associated with existing delivery methods.
SOURCE: Society for Neuroscience