Recently, scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center discovered that rats with spinal injuries that received an intravenous injection of Brilliant Blue G (BBG) dye were able to recover a significant amount of mobility compared to those that did not receive injections. It’s the same dye that’s used in many blue foods — like blue M&M candies and “Cool Blue” flavored Gatorade — which did mean there was one little side effect. The rats that received the dye injections were temporarily dyed blue.
What led researchers to inject rats with blue dye in the first place? Let’s start with basics: When a spinal injury occurs, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) surges at the site of the injury. This can cause healthy cells to die, and so researchers hypothesized that if they could block ATP right after an injury, they could decrease the resulting damage and improve the likelihood of recovery. In previous studies, researchers were successful in using oxidized ATP to protect the site of injury, but there was concern that oxidized ATP is not a practical option for medics responding to spinal injury. Researchers already knew that BBG was approved for its ability to block the receptor where ATP connects, so they decided it would be worth testing.
The team of researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center is actively looking to have BBG testing approved for human patients dealing with spinal injuries. While researchers don’t expect that humans will necessarily experience the same results as the test rats (test sample rats limped but were able to regain the ability to walk), there is evidence that it could help improve quality of life in patients suffering from spinal injuries. For example, BBG could potentially help with pain management as well as with issues like maintaining bladder control.
Though this is not yet an available treatment, it does speak to the many interesting developments on the horizon in treating back problems. When it comes to managing back injury, doctors as well as patients prefer to avoid surgery until absolutely necessary. Finding a solution to chronic back pain may mean trying out a few options together or sequentially. Every patient is different, and that’s one reason why at the Spine Institute Northwest, we offer a broad range of treatment options and keep abreast of the latest advances in pain management. Together, we’ll find an approach to get back your life. To get started, call us at 206-496-0630.
photo by Grant Guarino