Brain and spinal cord injuries (SCI) are not limited to any one age group. While older people tend to suffer brain and SCIs because of their age (strokes and falls), younger people tend to suffer brain and SCIs from traumatic events (typically accidents, such as sports injuries or car accidents), the symptoms are the same. Traditionally, these injuries have required induced comas or extensive surgeries to restore normal bodily functionality. An estimated 60 million people worldwide each year suffer from brain and spinal cord injuries and 15 million have strokes. This can cause the loss of normal bodily functions and disability.
Researchers have been looking into how the anti-psychotic drug trifluoperazine (TFP) can help to prevent this from occurring . Based on initial studies on rats, the drug allowed the injured animals to recover all of their previous abilities, usually within a couple of weeks.
When a person suffers a brain or spinal cord injury, the site of the damage tends to result in oxygen loss to the area, which can cause excess water to rush through the aquaporins. This is what causes swelling and additional pressure to build up. Spinal and brain tissue are particularly sensitive and fragile. When they swell, it disrupts signals through the affected region. TFP stops calmodulin (a type of protein) from binding with the aquaporins, thereby stopping excess water from entering the region.
TFP has primarily been given with caution to schizophrenic patients because it works, but has several serious long-term side effects. However, researchers hope that by using only a single dose, they can significantly reduce the long-term damage of an injury without the long-term side effects of the drug. It is also an approved drug by both the US FDA and the UK’s NICE. This could reduce the length of time it takes to begin using the drug on a wider scale without the lengthy period often required for new drugs to be approved. Further testing is required before it can be used, but it has provided some hope that the most severe long-term damage caused by the body’s reaction to a brain or SCI can be prevented. If it is proven to work as effectively as hoped, it can prevent the extensive, invasive, and risky surgeries or induced comas traditionally conducted to undo the damage with mixed results.
For more details and specifics about TFP and its potential benefits, check out “Cell Pores” Discovery Gives Hope to Millions of Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Patients.