Spinal surgery could be avoided if injuries are treated with a food additive that is used in M&Ms to give them their distinstive blue hue.
Brilliant Blue G (BBG) if applied to the spinal cord within hours of an injury occurring has a positive effect.
The element works to stop the chain of molecular sequences that cause the spinal cord injury to expand and paralysis to become more serious.
Lead researcher Dr Maiken Nedergaard, professor of neurosurgery and director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, commented: "While we achieved great results when oxidized ATP was injected directly into the spinal cord, this method would not be practical for use with spinal cord-injured patients."
"First, no one wants to put a needle into a spinal cord that has just been severely injured, so we knew we needed to find another way to quickly deliver an agent that would stop ATP from killing healthy motor neurons.
He added that another reason was the fact that the compound could prove poisonous if injected into the bloodstream.
Injury to the spinal cord damages the white matter, or myelinated fibre tracts, that carry signals to the brain.
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