Aging Can Worsen Spinal Cord Injury

Recent studies are reporting findings that corroborate previous evidence that spinal cord injuries are more severe in elderly mice than in young adult mice. Researchers also found a previously unknown player in the repair of spinal cord injuries.

Spinal Cord Injuries: The Unknown Factor

Recent studies have revealed that a previously unknown factor may affect spinal cord injury recovery. Receptors called microglia are essentially immune cells in the central nervous system of young adult mice which signal a pathway that greatly aids in repair after injury. In elderly mice, these immune cells do not activate the pathway, thus greatly lowering the victim’s chances of repairing after a spinal injury.

According to Jonathan Godbout, an associate professor of neuroscience at The Ohio State University and senior author of the study, “The microglia are regulated by several different cell types and different signals, and it appears a lot of those systems change with age…We’ve shown evidence that this more severe injury occurs in an aging animal, and that the difference in recovery is related to the ability to express the receptor. The consequence is we have a different profile of cells at the injury site, and in aging mice, that environment is less reparative.”

The recovery process was also found to be much slower in elderly mice than young adult mice. Young adult mice gained movement of their hind limbs much faster than elderly mice.

Some of the researchers were surprised by the results. Ashley Fenn stated that “in the aged mice with a spinal cord injury, we saw reduced levels of some inflammatory signals associated with a failure to reprogram the microglia with IL-4 toward a reparative profile. That’s how we figured out the IL-4 is unique in the spinal cord injury paradigm, that it induces an inflammatory response that appears to be beneficial.”

Future Developments

While this research is certainly enlightening, any human therapy based on this research would take many years to develop. However, Godbout and Fenn stated that by developing a drug that could stimulate expression of the IL-4 alpha receptor there may be potential improvements to the injury.

Legal Aid for Spinal Cord Injury Victims

Spinal cord injuries can leave the victim with high medical debt, the inability to work, and pain and suffering. Those who have been injured due to the negligence of another have legal rights which can result in compensation for these damages. If you or a loved one have suffered a spinal cord injury, seek the help of the experienced personal injury attorneys at Barber and Associates, LLC in Anchorage, Alaska.

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