A blue way to treat spinal cord injuries

By • Published: November 3rd, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The next time you pop a blue M&M in your mouth or take a swig of blue Gatorade, think about this: The pretty dye that gives your sports drink its royal blue hue could someday help people with spinal cord injuries.

University of Rochester researchers recently discovered that the food additive Brilliant Blue G helps put the kibosh on additional damage to the spinal cord after an injury. Brilliant Blue G is closely related to the dye Blue 1, which is safely used in everything from ice cream to frozen vegetables.

So how does blue dye come into play? The first few hours after a spinal cord injury are crucial for patients. Post-injury, the body’s cellular supercharger, ATP, floods the area. The body relies on ATP so this may not sound like such a bad thing. The problem is ATP weaves a path of destruction, killing healthy cells and worsening the injury.

Aside from being a pretty blue dye, Brilliant Blue G contains the right chemical makeup to block ATP from further damaging the spinal cord. The dye can also be injected intravenously unlike other compounds researchers tried. Because of its close link to Blue Dye 1, they believed it would be safe, too.

Tests in rats confirmed the researchers’ theories. Rats that received the injection were less likely to face further problems than other rats. There was just one little issue. The injection temporarily gave the rats a Smurflike hue.

More research is needed, but scientists are hopeful their blue discovery could one day help patients… sans the Smurfy afterglow, of course.