AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 1, 2020

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A Common Drug Could Help Restore Limb Function after Spinal Cord Injury

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Long-term treatment with gabapentin, a commonly prescribed drug for nerve pain, could help restore upper limb function after a spinal cord injury, new research in mice suggests. 

In the study, mice treated with gabapentin regained roughly 60% of forelimb function in a skilled walking test, compared to restoration of approximately 30% of forelimb function in mice that received a placebo.

The drug blocks activity of a protein that has a key role in the growth process of axons, the long, slender extensions of nerve cell bodies that transmit messages. The protein stops axon growth at times when synapses form, allowing transmission of information to another nerve cell. 

The research showed that gabapentin blocks the protein from putting on its brakes, which effectively allowed axons to grow longer after injury.

“There is some spontaneous recovery in untreated mice, but it’s never complete. The treated mice still have deficits, but they are significantly better,” said senior author Andrea Tedeschi, assistant professor of neuroscience at The Ohio State University. 

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