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Spinal injury breakthrough could result in better treatments

Thousands of Americans are stricken with spinal cord injuries every year. A major spinal cord injury changes someone’s life in an instant. Limited treatments are available, and many spinal cord injury victims will face partial or total paralysis for the rest of their lives.

However, modern medicine can do some amazing things, and there are breakthroughs being made every day. A new study from the University of Copenhagen is a refreshing ray of hope that could pave the way for new treatment methods for spinal injury victims.

Despite total or partial paralysis, many spinal injury victims experience involuntary muscle spasms or contractions. These spasms can impair a patient’s quality of life.

Previously, the cause of spinal injury victims’ muscle spasms was unknown. But, researchers discovered that a group of spinal cord cells can start supplying the neurotransmitter serotonin erratically following a spinal injury. These uncontrolled releases of serotonin, which normally plays a critical role in our voluntary control of movements, can cause muscle spasms in a spinal injury victim.

“By targeting the specific enzyme, in the long term we will be able to devise new methods of treatment when we are trying to impact functions in the nervous system,” neurophysiologist Jacob Wienecke said in a press release from the University of Copenhagen.

This new study by no means heralds the end of the many challenges faced by spinal injury victims. But it does hold great promise, and serves as a reminder that in the future many currently unimaginable treatments may be able to help spinal injury victims, provided they have the means to pay for them.

Source: University of Copenhagen, “New research offers help for spinal cord patients,” Sept. 4, 2014