According to Maiken Nedergaard, and colleagues, at the University of Rochester Medical Center, tests in rats show that Brilliant Blue G (BBG), a food dye, may help with spinal cord injury.
Dr Steven Goldman, who worked on the study, said “Our hope is that this work will lead to a practical, safe agent that can be given to patients shortly after injury, for the purpose of decreasing the secondary damage that we have to otherwise expect.”
When nerve cells in the brain or spine are damaged, they release harmful chemicals such as ATP that kill off nearby cells.
“We found that IV administration of the P2X7R inhibitor, BBG, significantly reduced the severity of spinal cord damage without any evident toxicity,” writes the team. “BBG is a derivative of the, widely used, food additive - FD&C Blue number 1. More than 1 million pounds of FD&C blue dye No 1 are consumed yearly in the United States.”
The treatment would have to be administered immediately following injury as nerve death is irreversible but, cautions Nedergaard, human testing is still a long way off.