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Drug offers hope for spinal cord patients any development has got to be a good one...

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 09:06 AM

Drug offers hope for spinal cord patients
By Martin Johnston 5:30 AM Monday Aug 15, 2011 Share Email

Another step towards treating spinal cord patients. Photo / Thinkstock Shrink
Another step towards treating spinal cord patients. Photo / ThinkstockNew Zealand scientists have taken big strides towards producing a drug treatment for spinal cord injuries - an exciting development for anyone confined to a wheelchair by back or neck injuries.

The Auckland University neuroscientists have previously proven in the laboratory that the drug, a lab-produced protein, can halt harmful communication between nerve cells following injury.

Now, in a paper submitted for publication, they report that the drug has shown in an animal study that it may be beneficial.

"There was a reduction in inflammation, a reduction in swelling and improved behavioural outcomes," said Professor Louise Nicholson, from the university's department of anatomy with radiology.

"This is a very exciting breakthrough as currently no reliable treatment exists for acute spinal cord injury. If we can prevent the spread of damage early, people who suffer an injury may not have the same degree of disability and if we can act early enough, there may possibly be no disability at all."

Professor Nicholson and her colleagues have shown that one of the critical changes after spinal cord injury is an increase in the number of chemical communication channels - called "gap junctions" - between nerve cells.

The gap junctions play an important role in spreading damage from an injury site to other areas.

The researchers found that higher concentrations of the protein, called mimetic peptide 5, prevented cells from opening communication channels and disconnected existing gap junctions.

"This study supports the idea that regulation of Connexin 43 hemi-channel opening using mimetic peptides may be a useful treatment for reducing the spread of damage after spinal cord injury," they wrote in the United States journal Cell Communication and Adhesion.

Professor Nicholson said: "Our next goal is to investigate ways of targeted delivery."

The aim is to give an injection into the bloodstream - but this will depend on the outcome of research on how long the peptide lasts in the blood.

Professor Nicholson said there was some evidence the peptide would reach a spinal cord injury site if put into the bloodstream.

"We may have a natural delivery system that allows for targeted delivery.

"We need to be sure the peptide is stable for long enough." However it could still take a number of years for the team's discoveries to be translated into an established treatment.

Professor Nicholson is part of the new Spinal Cord Injury Research Unit, which was opened on Friday within the university's Centre for Brain Research.

To walk again is the big goal

Fishing, boating and camping are in Guy Irwin's DNA, but a single catastrophic moment in the Queensland surf robbed him of his Kiwi outdoors lifestyle.

His neck broke when a wave tumbled him and drove his head into a sandbar at Broadbeach in Surfers Paradise. The body-surfing accident in February 2006 instantly paralysed his arms and legs, and he might have drowned if not for the quick work of two trainee lifeguards who pulled him from the water.

"I was fully conscious but aware that I couldn't move," the 48-year-old from Rotorua recalled yesterday.

Mr Irwin and his wife, Susanne, the parents of an 11-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy, own a Robert Harris cafe franchise in Tauranga. Mrs Irwin runs the cafe and Mr Irwin helps with the administration.

Tetraplegic since the accident, Mr Irwin says the life changes in going from being part of an outdoorsy family to being suddenly restricted to a wheelchair are indescribable.

He is thankful for the "fantastic" rehabilitation and treatment he has received, including tendon transfer surgery which has restored some movement to his shoulders, arms and hands, enabling him to write, hold cutlery, use a computer and drive. But he wants to walk.

"The current [therapies] help you to hold a pen and a knife and fork and drive a car. The new research they are working on at the Spinal Cord Research Unit will enable you to walk a walking track, pitch a tent, get in and out of a boat. For people in wheelchairs, that sort of difference is incredibly significant."

By Martin Johnston | Email Martin

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 10:40 AM

Don’t be crippled from sitting
Michelle Owen | WEEKEND REVIEW

Good and bad: Posture is important
Secrets of a deep sleep

The human body is not designed to sit for long hours in one place.

Yet many people work in jobs requiring them to sit all day, usually in front of a computer.

If this sounds like you, consider how much stress you are placing on your body. Unless you’re sitting in an appropriately aligned position, at a correct ergonomic workstation, you run the risk of injury, pain and discomfort.

Over many years I have seen, heard and dealt with people’s pain on a daily basis. Often their problem stems from poor body alignment while sitting long hours at the computer.

Many come to me as a last resort after spending countless hours and dollars seeing various doctors, therapists and specialists to no avail.

Knowing how the body should be aligned, appropriate stretching and strengthening to hold it in this position can really assist this pain and discomfort.

As postural muscles gravitate to the wrong position for hours each day, they become chronically overworked. This causes them to shorten and tighten, which then alters our spinal curvature and joint mechanics.

Where there are short or tight muscles there has to be opposing weak muscles.

This extremely common muscle imbalance causes nasty things to happen. Like degeneration in the upper and lower spine, prolapsed discs and thoracic (mid back) vertebra that get stuck while flexing, causing other vertebra to become too mobile.

Trapped nerves, repetitive strain injuries, overuse syndrome, carpel tunnel, nasty headaches, breathing dysfunction; the list goes on.

Poor posture can also cause Dowagers Hump, a fatty deposit that builds up just below the neck to try to stabilise the head that is sitting too far forward. Visually unpleasant and extremely painful, this can zap our energy.

If you already have bad posture, pain or discomfort (your body’s warning signs) you need more than a correct ergonomic station to rectify it.

Your body has become used to being in the wrong position. It now identifies it as the position of strength and normality. The right position feels very awkward.

As soon as your mind veers off to your work, your body pulls back to bad posture.

To correct this long term, you need to do the associated mobilisations, stretching and strengthening work alongside having correct ergonomics in place.

All must go together. One without the other is not powerful enough.

Check your position

• Feet flat on floor, legs at 90 degrees

• If chair is too high a footrest may be needed

• Ears, shoulders and hips should be in line

• If a lumber support is used this should be placed directly behind the belly button

• Arms should be parallel to the floor and level with keyboard

• Always sit with spine in alignment, don’t lean to one side

• Sit forward of the butt bones

• Get up and move often every hour at least

• Setting an alarm on a regular basis; 15 minutes can be a constant reminder to help your corrections

Michelle Owen is a corporate health and wellness speaker, and postural and wellness specialist

More on:body alignmentergonomicsExecutive HealthPostureWEEKEND REVIEW

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 10:13 AM

The soft, collagen-rich shock absorbers in our backs, known as intervertebral discs, both add to our height (a full quarter of the spinal column's total length) and cushion our vertebrae from contacting one another. Unfortunately, aging, accidents and overuse can damage them and lead to the costly phenomenon of chronic back pain – roughly US$100 billion is spent annually on treatment in the U.S. alone.Replacement of damaged discs, rather than spinal fusion, is an option that's growing in popularity, especially because it helps maintain mobility in the spine. Now, a team from Brigham Young University (BYU) has unveiled their new artificial disc, a compliant mechanism that they believe has the potential to restore quality of life to millions of those with injured spines.

Designed by BYU engineering professors Anton Bowden, Larry Howell and former BYU student Peter Halverson, the jointless elastic device is flexible enough to allow movement, but durable enough to withstand the sometimes crushing pressures that build up between the vertebra of the spine. The team's study will be published in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Spine Surgery.

“Low back pain has been described as the most severe pain you can experience that won’t kill you,” Bowden said. “This device has the potential to alleviate that pain and restore the natural motion of the spine – something current procedures can’t replicate.” Spinal fusion, currently the most common procedure in addressing damaged discs, leaves more than half of patients dissatisfied, likely due to the drastic reduction in mobility it causes. engineering professors Anton Bowden (left) and Larry Howell (right) examine their artificial disc implant

Howell is a leading expert in compliant mechanisms – deformable devices such as archery bows and tweezers. He and Bowden had student engineers construct various prototype discs which they first tested mechanically and then in spines removed from cadavers.

“To mimic the response of the spine is very difficult because of the constrained space and the sophistication of the spine and its parts,” Howell said. “A compliant mechanism is more human-like, more natural, and the one we’ve created behaves like a healthy disc.”

BYU licensed the technology to Utah-based company Crocker Spinal Technologies, which plans to develop the product for market release as early as next year. That's potentially welcome news for the many who currently pay the stiff price of chronic back pain.

Source: BYU


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Posted 15 June 2012 - 10:16 AM

latest developments....

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Posted 21 June 2012 - 09:43 AM

mimicking the self repairing within the body...


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