Researchers discover treatment for spasticity in mice, following spinal cord injuries

April 16, 2020

In experiments with mice, researchers have studied neuronal mechanisms and found a way to by and large prevent spasticity from developing after spinal cord injuries. A new study from the University of Copenhagen shows that the researchers have done this by using already approved medicine for high blood pressure.

Spinal cord injury can be highly debilitating and affect motor skills, the sensation as well as autonomic brain functions. Besides, the injury will often lead to the development of spasticity which manifests itself in involuntary, sustained or rhythmic muscle contractions. It is estimated that 70 percent of those who have a spinal cord injury will develop spasticity.

Now, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have discovered a possible treatment - tested on mice - against the development of spasticity following a spinal cord injury. After the treatment, the mice showed no or only modest signs of spasticity.

The researchers treated the mice with the drug nimodipine, which is an already approved drug that has been used since the 1980s.

'We show that nimodipine by and large can prevent the development of spasticity after a spinal cord injury if administered soon after the injury and for an extended period of time. One of the most surprising and interesting elements in the study is that the effect continues, even after treatment has stopped', says co-author Ole Kiehn, Professor at the Department of Neuroscience.

The new results have been published in the scientific journal Science Translational Medicine.

The Effect is Long-Lasting

Nimodipine is a drug that is used, among other things, against high blood pressure. The researchers' experiments showed that treatment with nimodipine must be started immediately after the spinal cord injury has occurred, otherwise it will not work.

In addition, the treatment must continue for an extended period of time. In the experiment, the mice were treated with the drug for six weeks and then observed for nine weeks, where they developed no or only mild signs of spasticity.

The most surprising thing to the researchers was that the effect was long-lasting.

'We had guessed that the spasticity would be blocked for as long as the pharmacological treatment was ongoing. But we were positively surprised to see that the development of spasticity remained blocked even after we stopped the pharmacological treatment', says co-author Carmelo Bellardita, Postdoc at the Department of Neuroscience.

Blocked Calcium Channel

Nimodipine works by blocking calcium channels - which belong to the group of so-called L-type calcium channels - found in many nerve cells in the spinal cord.

In the study, the researchers show that the effect of nimodipine is due to the blocking of one specific L-type calcium channel, the so-called CaV1.3 channel. By genetically removing that type of calcium channels in the spinal cord of mice, they achieved the same result: the development of spasticity was blocked.

According to the researchers, the results could potentially also be relevant to other diseases where spasticity may develop. For example, in connection with multiple sclerosis and stroke.

It is still uncertain whether nimodipine will have the same effect on human spasticity as all experiments have been done on mice. The researchers will now study this question.

'We are quite optimistic that nimodipine will have the same effect in humans. But we cannot be certain. Nimodipine is an approved drug that easily enters the brain, and we will now begin trials together with other researchers where we test nimodipine on healthy test subjects to study the effect on various reflexes and motor skills. Subsequently, it may potentially be possible to test the drug on people with spasticity', says Ole Kiehn.
-end-


University of Copenhagen The Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Related Spinal Cord Injury Articles from Brightsurf:

Stem cells can help repair spinal cord after injury
Spinal cord injury often leads to permanent functional impairment. In a new study published in the journal Science researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden show that it is possible to stimulate stem cells in the mouse spinal cord to form large amounts of new oligodendrocytes, cells that are essential to the ability of neurons to transmit signals, and thus to help repair the spinal cord after injury.

Spinal cord injury increases risk for mental health disorders
A new study finds adults with traumatic spinal cord injury are at an increased risk of developing mental health disorders and secondary chronic diseases compared to adults without the condition.

Co-delivery of IL-10 and NT-3 to enhance spinal cord injury repair
Spinal cord injury (SCI) creates a complex microenvironment that is not conducive to repair; growth factors are in short supply, whereas factors that inhibit regeneration are plentiful.

IU scientists study link between energy levels, spinal cord injury
A team of researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine, in collaboration with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, have investigated how boosting energy levels within damaged nerve fibers or axons may represent a novel therapeutic direction for axonal regeneration and functional recovery.

UBCO professor simplifies exercise advice for spinal cord injury
Professor Kathleen Martin Ginis says a major barrier to physical activity for people with a spinal cord injury is a lack of knowledge or resources about the amount and type of activity needed to achieve health and fitness benefits.

Robotic trunk support assists those with spinal cord injury
A Columbia Engineering team has invented a robotic device -- the Trunk-Support Trainer (TruST) -- that can be used to assist and train people with spinal cord injuries (SCIs) to sit more stably by improving their trunk control, and thus gain an expanded active sitting workspace without falling over or using their hands to balance.

Does frailty affect outcomes after traumatic spinal cord injury?
A new study has shown that frailty is an important predictor of worse outcome after traumatic spinal cord injury in patients less than 75 years of age.

Sleep and sleepiness 'a huge problem' for people with spinal cord injury
A new study led by a University of Calgary researcher at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) finds that fatigue and sleep may need more attention in order to prevent issues like stroke after spinal cord injury.

From spinal cord injury to recovery
Spinal cord injury disconnects communication between the brain and the spinal cord, disrupting control over part of the body.

Transplanting adult spinal cord tissues: A new strategy of repair spinal cord injury
Spinal cord injury repair is one of the most challenging medical problems, and no effective therapeutic methods has been developed.

Read More: Spinal Cord Injury News and Spinal Cord Injury Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.