Blue M&M Food Dye May Prevent Spinal Cord Injury
If you don’t have a favorite M&M color, may I suggest blue. Spinal cord researchers have found that the food dye that gives makes M&M’s blue may prevent the additional, more serious secondary damage that follows a traumatic spinal cord injury.
The University of Rochester Medical Center researchers published an online article today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their research shows the compound Brilliant Blue G (BBG) stops the cascade of molecular events that cause secondary damage to the spinal cord in the hours following a spinal cord injury. This secondary damage is known to expand the area of injury in the spinal cord and permanently worsen the paralysis for patients.
An intravenous (IV) injection of BBG significantly reduces secondary injury in spinal cord-injured rats. The injured rats who received the BBG improved to the point of being able to walk, though with a limp. Rats that had not received the BBG solution never regained the ability to walk.
The rats who were injected with BBG temporarily had a blue tinge to their skin. Who wouldn’t want to be temporarily blue if it meant they could walk again following a spinal cord injury?
Lead researcher Maiken Nedergaard, M.D. cautions that while this body of work offers a promising new way of treating spinal cord injury, it is still years away from possible application in patients.
In addition, any potential treatments would only be helpful to people who have just suffered a spinal cord injury, not for patients whose injury is more than a day old. Just as clot-busting agents can help patients who have had a stroke or heart attack who get to an emergency room within a few hours, so a compound that could stem the damage from ATP might help patients who have had a spinal cord injury and are treated immediately.