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Blood biomarker for recovery

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Acute spinal cord injury is a debilitating neurological condition. It induces a systemic inflammatory response involving white blood cells. After a trauma a chronic, non-resolving inflammatory response is persisting at the lesion site. That involves both resident and infiltrating white blood cells. The inflammatory response is thought to be maladaptive and an amplifier of secondary pathology in spared spinal cord tissue.

Why prediction markers are needed
Lately, progress has been made regarding research on spinal cord injury treatment. However, because of the vast heterogeneity of spinal cord injuries, it is difficult to predict the degree of spinal cord damage, patient recovery and potential complications. In a recent publication, Australian and German neuroscientists led by Dr. Ruitenberg and Dr. Kopp conducted an analysis of clinical data from over 200 patients collectively admitted to both their hospitals. Their aim was to identify how the systemic white blood cell response to spinal cord injury is influenced by trauma severity, level of injury and neurological grade on admission.

Game changing results
The researcher found out that the acute increase of a specific type of white blood cells, called neutrophils, was a negative predictor for patient outcomes. On the other hand, they revealed that the shortage of another cell type, called lymphocytes, was associated with better recovery during the first week after an accident. Based on these findings they also checked the ratio for neutrophils and lymphocytes. In clinical use, this parameter may contribute to better predict the onset of infections in at-risk patients.
Collectively, these findings will not only help medical professionals more accurately foresee outcomes in patients with spinal cord injury but also assess the efficacy of novel interventions and identify targets for future therapies.


This study was published in the journal Clinical and Translational Medicine and was supported by Wings for Life.

Source: Jogia T, Lübstorf T, Jacobson E, et al. Prognostic value of early leukocyte fluctuations for recovery from traumatic spinal cord injury. Clin Transl Med. 2020;11:e272.

You can find out more on the spinal cord and the influence of its damage on the human body in our basic-information. Wings for Life Glossary gives an understanding of scientific terms.