Rubèn Lopez-Vales, Universidad Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

Stimulating the healing potential of the immune system

Funded in: 2009, 2010, 2011

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Subsequent (secondary) tissue damage enlarges the extent of primary damage after spinal cord tissue thereby contributing significantly to permanent functional disabilities. Preventing or minimizing such secondary damage can be expected to substantially reduce the functional disability that occurs after SCI.

Inflammation is thought to contribute importantly to this damage and there are specific molecules that either boost or diminish its amplitude. One of them, the Lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) is a potent, biologically active lipid mediator that has many physiological functions but that its role in injury or disease in the central nervous system has not yet been studied. Preliminary work of this team suggests that LPA causes a rapid and potent activation of the inflammatory response in the spinal cord, which leads to demyelination and functional impairment.

The concept is a selective blocking of the damaging immune response but in parallel boosting beneficial aspects of a protective immune response which will result in improved functional outcomes after spinal cord injury. Right now, several pharmaceutical companies are interested in the development of drugs that interfere with LPA for the treatment of other human diseases, which will make the application in the context of spinal cord injury faster and easier.