Systemic administration of a drug called epothilone B promotes axon regeneration after spinal cord injury

Ruschel et al. published an article in 2015 that described the effect of a drug called epothilone B (epoB) on the spinal cord of rats with spinal cord injuries (SCIs). To repair SCI, a drug needs to reduce scarring that takes place after an injury, inhibit the chemicals that prevent repair from naturally occurring, and activate the growth of nerve cells. After an SCI, scar tissue made with fibrous proteins called fibronectin and laminin forms where the injury is, and this scar tissue contains chemicals, including chondroitin sulfate proteogylcans (CSPGs) that inhibit the repair of the spinal cord.

The rats given eopB after SCI had a reduction in scar tissue, including fibronectin and laminin, and a reduction in CSPGs. The epoB treatment reduced scar tissue by stopping microtubules from migrating to the lesion site. Microtubules are structures within a cell that help create the structure of the cell and they play a role in movement within a cell. The authors also tested the locomotion abilities of rats with SCI that were treated with epoB and found that treatment with the drug improved the walking ability of rats – it increased the stride length and gait regularity of the rats, and reduced the amount of external rotation present in their hind paws. The authors concluded that epoB might be a promising treatment for SCI.

Dr. Benjamin Greenberg, Director of the Transverse Myelitis and Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder Program at the University of Texas Southwestern, stated that “While this medication was tried in a model of traumatic injury, the same scar tissue forms after myelitis. Developing ways to reduce this scar formation will be critical for recovery in our patients. Future trials will need to consider using this medication in non-traumatic models of spinal injury.”

Original research: Ruschel J, Hellal F, Flynn KC. Systemic administration of epothilone B promotes axon regeneration after spinal cord injury. Science. 2015;348(6232):347-352.

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