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New antibody offers hope for spinal cord injury patients

image-tools (63)Researchers at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) and the University of Melbourne have shown that a new antibody can reverse the damage caused by trauma to the central nervous system.

After a neurotrauma event, such as a spinal cord injury, the body produces an inflammatory response. Unfortunately, this response often leads to scarring and permanent nerve damage, for which there are currently no treatment options.

Now a new antibody, created by the US therapeutic antibody company Lpath, has been developed that blocks the effects of lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), a molecule released in response to injury. LPA promotes inflammation and nerve cell death.

The research team, led by Drs Yona Goldshmit and Alice Pébay, showed that by administering this novel antibody soon after the injury occurred, it was possible to preserve nerve cells and limit the amount of scarring, while substantially reducing the losses in motor function.

Dr Alice Pébay is Head of CERA’s Neuroregeneration Unit and one of the lead investigators in the study. “This study offers great hope for a future pharmacological therapy for spinal cord injuries in humans,” she said.

“Our study reinforced earlier research on the role of LPA after an injury. By blocking the effects of LPA, we can help nerve cells survive a traumatic injury and this will hopefully lead to better outcomes for patients in the future,” said Dr Yona Goldshmit.

The research is still in its early stages and has not yet been trialled in humans, but Dr Pébay is optimistic regarding its potential. “Perhaps this drug will one day be administered in the back of an ambulance, as the patient is being transported to hospital,” she says.

The research has been funded by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

The TAC’s CEO Janet Dore said that each year on average, the TAC accepted 25 new claims for people with spinal cord injuries, both quadriplegia and paraplegia.

“These people will need rehabilitation and medical support from the TAC across their lifetime. Research like this gives us hope that many traumatic spinal injuries could be avoided in the future,” Ms Amies said.

The spinal cord is a good model for the optic nerve and researchers hope that this work can eventually be translated to the area of vision regeneration.

Collaborators in the study included scientists at the O’Brien Institute, Lpath Inc and Monash University.