Researchers at the University of Western Australia, led by Associate Professor Melinda Fitzgerald, have discovered that preventing abnormalities in the insulating sheath surrounding nerve cells is associated with better function following neurotrauma.
Following injury to the central nervous system, damage spreads away from the initial impact in a process known as secondary degeneration. Dr Fitzgerald emphasises that "In order to develop treatments for secondary degeneration, we need to understand the biochemical reactions that occur in tissue that succumbs to spreading damage". The research team has discovered that biochemical changes leading to oxidative stress damage insulating myelin around nerve cells, associated with long term loss of function.
In a Perspectives article released in Neural Regeneration Research (Vol 9, No.11, 2014), Dr Fitzgerald describes her findings following treatment of secondary degeneration with several different therapeutic strategies, including combinations of calcium channel inhibitors and red/near-infrared irradiation therapy. "A combination of three calcium channel inhibitors reduced oxidative stress, preserved myelin and prevented loss of function in our model of secondary degeneration" said Dr Fitzgerald. "Red/ near-infrared irradiation therapy also reduced the effects of secondary degeneration, preserving structure of myelin and function."