Researchers from the University of Zurich, University Hospital Balgrist and the University College London published a study on lost tissue in spinal cord injuries in the Lancet Journal on July 2. According to the researchers, they found evidence that irreversible tissue loss in the spinal cord occurs within 40 days of acute SCI, U.S. News & World Report reports in an article. Acute SCI is a sudden traumatic injury that can result in a bruise or either a partial or a complete injury to the spinal cord.
Prior to the study, the researchers claim that it’s been a mystery as to how quickly SCI affects and changes the functional state and structure of the spinal cord and the brain. Researchers previously believed that it took years for a patient with SCI to begin displaying anatomical changes in the brain and spinal cord above the area of injury. The researchers were able to demonstrate that the changes occur within 40 days by studying 13 patients with acute SCI.
The patients were examined every three months for a year with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) protocols. The scientists discovered that the diameter of the spinal cord had rapidly decreased by approximately 7 percent after a year. Another decline, albeit of a lesser volume, was also observed in the corticospinal tract which is responsible for motor control and nerve cells in the sensorimotor cortex.
“Patients with a greater tissue loss above the injury site recovered less effectively than those with less change,” Patrick Freund, an investigator responsible for the study at the Paraplegic Center in Balgrist, explained in a press release. Freund also explained that the researchers are able to use novel neuroimaging protocols to display the effects of therapeutic treatments on the central nervous system and of rehabilitative measures more quickly. Now, clinical trials will examine treatments targeting the injured spinal cord.
The findings are the result of a three-year partnership between the two universities.