RESEARCHERS have identified an antibody which, when injected into a patient's bloodstream after a spinal cord injury, could reduce the damage caused by the trauma.
The findings by researchers in Melbourne and California could have significant implications for preventing and minimising loss of motor function, for which currently there is no cure.
The head of the neuroregeneration research unit at the Centre for Eye Research Australia, Alice Pebay, said the discovery was made by stopping a particular molecule, a lipid called lysophosphatidic acid, or LPA, from attaching itself to specific cells after injury and hindering recovery.
Following brain or spinal cord injury, cells called astrocytes proliferate and form a scar. But that scar is dense and makes it hard for the nerve cells to regrow through these cells, which have formed a thick barrier.
''They can't grow through it and they die,'' Dr Pebay said.
By introducing the man-made antibody, this reduces the creation of a barrier that inhibits recovery.
''We've identified a novel way of limiting damage,'' she said. ''People didn't know that this molecule was involved in spinal cord injury and that when you block this molecule, you reduce scarring and death of the neurons.
''It's a simple injection,'' Dr Pebay said. ''That means that one day paramedics could potentially administer the antibody and reduce the damage caused by trauma.''
The findings are published in the American Journal of Pathology.