Dogs With Spinal Cord Injury May Be Helped With Experimental Drug

Dogs with spinal cord injury may be helped with a new drug. A drug called Illomostat is currently being tested in dogs to help avoid paralysis if administered within hours of an injury. Dr. Jay Griffin currently works at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences where the drug is being tested.

Dr. Griffin owns a 14 year old dachshund that currently uses a wheelchair for mobility. He is also a veterinarian and is intrigued by the experimental drug.

Department of Defense Funds Research

Illomostat is being given to short-legged, long-torso dog breeds like dachshunds, beagles and corgis that can suddenly rupture disks in their backs and damage their spinal cords. The U.S. Department of Defense is funding the effort with a $750,000 grant because the drug could help wounded service members and others who experience an injury.

Hope for Dogs and People

Dr. Jonathon Levine, a veterinary neurologist at Texas A&M is testing the drug in dogs and hopes that someday it will also be able to help people.

What Happens

When dogs or people bruise or injure their spinal cords, something similar happens: A certain protein becomes elevated causing inflammation. This can cause nerve fibers and nerve cells to die which contribute to long term paralysis.

The experimental drug being tested in dogs is aimed at blocking secondary damage caused by the action of that one protein and reducing the destruction of tissue, local inflammation and blood vessel leakage. It does not attempt to re-grow injured pathways in the spinal column.

Successful Research

Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco were successful when they tested the drug with mice. Neurobiologist Linda Noble-Haeusslein, led the research and stated the mice had a remarkable recovery after injury.

Noble-Haeusslein has teamed up with Levine at Texas A&M University for the next phase of research. She said it would be “phenomenal” if the drug also reduces paralysis in dogs. Noble-Haeusslein and Levine have done a small-scale clinical trial in which about 40 recently injured dogs were given Illomostat with their owners’ consent, and about 70 were given a placebo. The data from that trial is being analyzed now.

More Research Planned

The researchers plan to begin a more in-depth trial with dogs in October — and their ultimate hope is that their findings will one day help people with injured spines. About 12,000 new injuries occur in the United States each year.

Read about spinal-cord research being done at UCSF and Texas A&M University.

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