The Law Firm of Leisawitz Heller

Research aims to prevent spinal cord damage after injury

A spinal cord injury is one of the most complex injuries an accident victim may suffer. The brain communicates to the rest of the body through the neurons in the spinal cord, and once those neurons suffer damage, you may lose many basic functions, such as walking, using your arms or even breathing.

Once the delicate neurons sustain damage, there is little doctors can do to reverse it. However, many spinal cord injuries do not occur the way you may think they do. If you imagine a break in the spine that also snaps the spinal cord within, you are only partially right. Many spinal cord injuries occur as a result of the body's own immune system response to the injury.

How does it work?

With any injury, even a simple cut, your body floods the area with immune cells that cause the injury to swell. This defense response is to protect the rest of the body from damage. However, if the protective covering around the spinal cord becomes torn or open, those aggressive cells can make their way to the spinal cord and cause inflammation that can quickly kill the neurons. Without these neurons, your brain cannot transmit messages to the rest of your body.

A similar event occurs when someone has a severe allergic reaction. The body may swell, and this can block the airways, making it impossible for the person to breathe. Fortunately, the quick use of an EpiPen delivers a dose of epinephrine, which reduces the swelling and clears the inflammation from the airways. Scientists are now working on a similar method of treatment for those who have suffered spinal cord injuries, which may work in this manner:

  • Pennsylvania first responders to a car crash, workplace accident or other accident will identify any victims who may have suffered a spinal cord injury.
  • Using a delivery system similar to an EpiPen, first responders or emergency room doctors will inject a solution of nanoparticles into the victim's system.
  • The solution binds to the inflammatory cells and directs them away from the delicate spinal cord neurons.
  • Protected from inflammation, the cells of the nervous system are less likely to form scar tissue, which means they may support regeneration.

It may go without saying that when such technology becomes available, it will not be cheap. In fact, the treatment, therapy and rehabilitation that follows a spinal cord injury is among the most expensive medical costs you can face. This may seem especially unfair if you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury due to someone else's negligence or recklessness. Since you will want the highest quality treatment for such an injury, you may benefit from seeking legal advice about your options.

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