(NaturalNews) New research out of UCLA is giving doctors hope that their discovery may eventually lead to a treatment for individuals whose walking has been impaired by damage to their spinal cords.
Choking a communication highway
As people age, the tiny hole through the center of each vertebrae gradually constricts, increasing the pressure that is placed on the spinal cord itself. The pressure, in unfortunate cases, can become great enough to cause distress to the individual, and damage to their mobility and nerve function. Currently, treatment is surgical relief of the pressure. Unfortunately, individuals tend to seek medical attention because of symptoms like pain and problems with motor skills, both of which are indications that spinal cord damage is already underway. Relieving the pressure with surgery won't reverse the nerve damage, but nerves do have an incredible plasticity that allows them the potential to heal the damage.
A common problem for an aging population
A condition called cervical spondylotic myelopathy involves compression of the spinal cord by the vertebrae. The condition is common in individuals with progressively degenerative diseases that can affect bone tissue, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. "Cervical", a term which is often used to refer to the fluted opening of the uterus, actually means "neck", after which the cervix is named. The cervical vertebrae are, consequently, the ones directly beneath the skull and above the shoulders.
Because the condition effects communication between the brain and the rest of the body, compression can result in problems like pain, numbness or difficulty moving when trying to use their arms and legs. Among individuals over the age of 55, it represents the most common type of walking impairment caused by the spine. Surgery is the preferred method of correction.
A good sign for chronic spinal injuries
In an attempt to address the problematic nerve damage that the compression may have caused, researchers have replicated the Standard American Diet - high in sugar and fat - in rats, to examine how inflammation might impact the process, and the healing pattern that would arise. They also created two other test groups. One simply received a normal rat diet, and the other received a normal diet with supplements of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a curcumin found in the yellow spice, turmeric. DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is beneficial in the repartition of damaged cells. All of the rats suffered from spinal cord injury.
Researchers investigated the impact that various dietary adjustments might have on the progress of nerve regeneration. Over the course of the trial, the rats on the standard Western diet exhibited walking difficulty that progressively worsened. After eating the American diet for three weeks, the condition was already deteriorating. The rats on the DHA diet, by contrast, were making improvements in walking ability by only six weeks. When examined at a cellular level, the groups showed levels of nerve damage that directly corresponded to their walking ability.
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