New Research in Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Treatment

University Researchers Work Towards Developing Better Treatment for Catastrophic Injuries

According to a recent article from News Medical, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have identified “a  previously unknown, beneficial immune response that occurs after injury to the central nervous system.” What does this discovery mean? It could lead to more effective treatment for spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients.

Jonathan Kipnis, an author of the study and a professor in the University Of Virginia Department Of Neuroscience, clarified how the new research could help accident victims. He explained that if the central nervous system gets injured, for example - in the instance of a spinal cord injury or a TBI-the central nervous system sends a “danger signal” to the patient’s immune system. The patient’s immune system, in response to such danger signals, produces a molecule (interleukin 4) that can provide important neuroprotection after a serious trauma.

Researchers and physicians are continually working towards understanding precisely how the body responds to damage to the central nervous system. Before this study, medical doctors were aware of the fact that the death of any central nervous system’s nerve cells meant they were gone forever. In fact, researchers have long since discovered that central nervous system nerve cells do not regenerate. However, the research conducted at the University of Virginia suggests that interleukin 4 might actually help to protect the body’s nerve cells from destruction when an accident happens, thereby “promot[ing] their regeneration.”

How will the research work in practice? These findings may help physicians in treating a patient with a spinal cord injury or a TBI, as it could very likely be beneficial to “increase the interleukin 4 response” in order to prevent nerve cell death and to promote nerve cell regeneration.

Get the Facts: Spinal Cord Injuries

What do you need to know about spinal cord injuries? According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), the following are some important facts and figures about spinal cord injuries:

  • About 12,000 serious spinal cord injuries occur each year, and that does not include those who die as a result of their injuries.
    Between 236,000 and 327,000 Americans currently live with serious spinal cord injuries.
  • Young adults are at the greatest risk of suffering a serious spinal cord injury.
  • Males are at greater risk of a serious spinal cord injury than are females. Indeed, more than 80 percent of spinal cord injuries reported in the national database occur among male patients.

What causes spinal cord injuries? The NSCISC reports the following as the most common causes of a life-altering spinal cord injury:

  • Car accidents (nearly 40 percent);
  • Falls, including slip and fall accidents and falls from heights (about 28 percent);
  • Intentional assault and other acts of violence (nearly 15 percent); and
  • Sports-related accidents (about 8 percent).

If you or a loved one has suffered a debilitating spinal cord injury, contact a personal injury lawyer to determine your rights. Depending on your situation, you may be able to seek financial compensation for your injuries.

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