A commonly used supplement might improve outcomes and recovery for individuals who sustain a spinal cord injury (SCI), say researchers.
According to research conducted by University of Kentucky neuroscientists, experimental models show that severe spinal cord injury can be treated effectively by administering the supplement acetyl-L-carnitine or ALC, a derivative of essential amino acids that can generate metabolic energy, soon after injury.
Sasha Rabchevsky, associate professor of physiology, Patrick Sullivan, associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology, and Samir Patel, senior research scientist-all of the UK Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center (SCoBIRC) -- previously reported that following spinal cord injury, the mitochondria are overwhelmed by chemical stresses and lose the ability to produce energy in the form of the compound adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
This leads to cell death at the injury site and, ultimately, paralysis of the body below the injury level.
But now, they have found that ALC can preserve the vitality of mitochondria by acting as an alternative biofuel providing energy to cells, thus bypassing damaged mitochondrial enzymes and promoting neuroprotection.
The results were reported at the recent National Neurotrauma Society Symposium in July 2011, and will be presented again at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in November 2011.