Christopher West and David Granville, University British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Sulfaphenazole as a promising neuroprotective therapy to improve motor and autonomic systems

Funded in: 2020, 2021, 2022

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Problem: No therapy for improving functional outcomes
Target: Sulfaphenazole should impact the function of the heart and blood vessels and reduce the severity of autonomic dysreflexia
Goal: Sulfaphenazole`s ability to improve the function of various bodily systems

Spinal cord injury affects almost every bodily system. After the initial injury, the spinal cord undergoes a period of further damage over time termed secondary injury. Many studies have attempted to identify therapies that target this secondary injury to help preserve as much spinal cord tissue as possible and therefore maintain as much function of different bodily systems as possible. Unfortunately, despite many promising therapies being identified none have resulted in improved functional outcomes. To help address this limitation, the scientist group identified all genes associated with spinal cord injury and then searched for drugs that are known to influence these genes. The top drug they identified was Sulfaphenazole.
In this grant, the research group will use a pre-clinical model to test whether Sulfaphenazole is able to improve the function of various bodily systems following spinal cord injury. A major focus of this grant is to test whether Sulfaphenazole impacts the function of the heart and blood vessels as well as testing whether Sulfaphenazole can reduce the severity of autonomic dysreflexia. Their focus on these bodily systems and clinical conditions is different from many studies that focus on the recovery of hand or walking function following spinal cord injury. The scientists believe targeting these systems is of great importance since autonomic dysreflexia can be life-threatening if left untreated, whilst heart disease is a leading cause of death in people the spinal cord injury. They hope to be able to demonstrate that this newly identified drug is able to preserve spinal cord tissue, thereby increasing the amount of nerves that travel past the injury site to control the heart and blood vessels. It is expected that if the scientists are able to preserve more nerves in the spinal cord then they can offset the damaging changes that occur in the heart and blood vessels.