Blue Food Dye Linked to Reduced Severity of Spinal Injuries
According to new research out of the University of Rochester Medical Center, the same blue food dye that is used in M&Ms and Gatorade may be able to be used to reduce damage caused by spinal injuries. The blue food dye contains a compound known as Brilliant Blue G (BBG). After researchers injected rats suffering from spinal cord injuries with BBG, the rats were able to walk again. The only side effect of the injection was that the rats temporally turned blue.
Researchers decided to try the BBG injections after a separate revelation about spinal cord injuries in 2004. In that year, scientists discovered that adenosine triphosphate, also known as ATP and is described as the “energy currency of life,” rushes to the injury site in the spinal cord soon after the cord is injured. This sudden surge of ATP to the spinal cells kills off healthy cells, making the injury far worse. Soon after this discovery, researchers also discovered that the spinal cord is rich in a molecule called P2X7. This molecule is known as the “death receptor” because it allows ATP onto motor neurons in the spinal cord and send the signals that eventually kill them.
Maiken Nedergaard, lead researcher and professor of Neurosurgery and director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, knew that P2X7 could be deterred by BBG. Nedergaard also knew that BBG was similar to blue food dye, which was approved by the FDA in 1982. This gave Nedergaard the confidence to test BBG intravenously. The rats given BBG immediately after their spinal injury were able to walk with a limp. The rats that did not receive BBG never regained their mobility. The researchers say that it could be several years before this method is ready to be tested on humans.
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