Riluzole is a glutamatergic modulator that has recently shown potential for neuroprotection after spinal cord injury (SCI). While the effects of riluzole are extensively documented in animal models of SCI, there remains heterogeneity in findings. Moreover, there is a paucity of data on the pharmacology of riluzole and its effects in humans. For the present study, the authors systematically reviewed the literature to provide a comprehensive understanding of the effects of riluzole in SCI.
The PubMed database was queried from 1996 to September 2018 to identify animal studies and clinical trials involving riluzole administration for SCI. Once articles were identified, they were processed for year of publication, study design, subject type, injury model, number of subjects in experimental and control groups, dose, timing/route of administration, and outcomes.
A total of 37 studies were included in this study. Three placebo-controlled clinical trials were included with a total of 73 patients with a mean age of 39.1 years (range 18–70 years). For the clinical trials included within this study, the American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale distributions for SCI were 42.6% grade A, 25% grade B, 26.6% grade C, and 6.2% grade D. Key findings from studies in humans included decreased nociception, improved motor function, and attenuated spastic reflexes. Twenty-six animal studies (24 in vivo, 1 in vitro, and 1 including both in vivo and in vitro) were included. A total of 520 animals/in vitro specimens were exposed to riluzole and 515 animals/in vitro specimens underwent other treatment for comparison. The average dose of riluzole for intraperitoneal, in vivo studies was 6.5 mg/kg (range 1–10 mg/kg). Key findings from animal studies included behavioral improvement, histopathological tissue sparing, and modified electrophysiology after SCI. Eight studies examined the pharmacology of riluzole in SCI. Key findings from pharmacological studies included riluzole dose-dependent effects on glutamate uptake and its modified bioavailability after SCI in both animal and clinical models.
SCI has many negative sequelae requiring neuroprotective intervention. While still relatively new in its applications for SCI, both animal and human studies demonstrate riluzole to be a promising pharmacological intervention to attenuate the devastating effects of this condition.