More than 12,000 new cases of spinal cord injuries occur every year throughout the United States. More than a fourth of these injuries are estimated to happen because of falls. As the population ages, this number is expected to increase. In South Carolina, approximately 67 people out of every one million suffer a traumatic spinal cord injury annually, according to the S.C. Spinal Cord Injury Research Fund. The incidence of spinal cord injury in South Carolina is approximately 22 percent higher than the national average. Approximately 63 percent of spinal cord injuries occur in car crashes, motorcycle crashes and other motor vehicle accidents.
Spinal cord injuries are especially serious because it is nearly impossible for the body to recover after such a trauma. Nerve fibers along the spinal cord cannot regenerate, which leaves a victim permanently disabled. All the body can do is direct surviving tissue around the injury site. The healing process continues throughout a spinal cord injury victim’s life.
But a newly discovered protein could change how spinal cord injuries are treated, offering hope in the future.
P45 and Spinal Cord Injuries
Kuo-Fen Lee, a scientist at the Salk Institute in California, and a group of his colleagues published a paper in PLOS ONE that discusses how a protein named P45 may help people with spinal cord injuries.
According to their research, P45 could open doors to a molecular mechanism that can reroute spinal cord healing, leading to functional recovery. Through experimentation with mice, Lee found that P45 has a neuroprotective effect that makes a difference with spinal cord wounds. This means it has the capacity to stop the process that occurs when an injury causes tissue to die. It potentially could prevent cells from disappearing, protecting healthy tissue from molecules that further damage the injury site.
Beyond hindering cell death, there is the possibility that P45 could promote healthy cell growth. Lee describes a sort of “see-saw effect” because this protein is capable of transforming negative factors into positive ones for spinal cord function after an injury.
“The great thing about P45 is that it can both inhibit the negative by blocking the conformational change that would lead to more cell death, while promoting the positive – the survival and growth of tissue – thus making it easier to foster recovery following spinal cord injury,” Lee said.
With these findings in hand, Lee will start looking for a gene or a process that provides similar results in humans. Although he is very encouraged, Lee cautions that clinical treatments involving molecular mechanisms will take years to develop.
Need Legal Help?
Spinal cord injuries are serious conditions that can cause devastating consequences to victims and their families. However, you don’t have to struggle alone. If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury in South Carolina, our South Carolina personal injury attorneys at Joye Law Firm can offer legal advice. Call us at (877) 936-9707 or use our online form.