Recovery from spinal cord injury using naturally occurring antiinflammatory compound curcumin

Laboratory investigation

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  • 1 Departments of Neurosurgery,
  • 2 Pathology, and
  • 3 Cell Biology and Anatomy, New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York
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Object

Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a debilitating disease. Primary SCI results from direct injury to the spinal cord, whereas secondary injury is a side effect from subsequent edema and ischemia followed by activation of proinflammatory cytokines. These cytokines activate the prosurvival molecule nuclear factor–κB and generate obstacles in spinal cord reinnervation due to gliosis. Curcumin longa is an active compound found in turmeric, which acts as an antiinflammatory agent primarily by inhibiting nuclear factor–κB. Here, the authors study the effect of curcumin on SCI recovery.

Methods

Fourteen female Sprague-Dawley rats underwent T9–10 laminectomy and spinal cord contusion using a weight-drop apparatus. Within 30 minutes after contusion and weekly thereafter, curcumin (60 mg/kg/ml body weight in dimethyl sulfoxide) or dimethyl sulfoxide (1 ml/kg body weight) was administered via percutaneous epidural injection at the injury site. Spinal cord injury recovery was assessed weekly by scoring hindlimb motor function. Animals were killed 6 weeks postcontusion for histopathological analysis of spinal cords and soleus muscle weight evaluation.

Results

Curcumin-treated rats had improved motor function compared with controls starting from Week 1. Body weight gain significantly improved, correlating with improved Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan scores. Soleus muscle weight was greater in curcumin-treated rats than controls. Histopathological analysis validated these results with increased neural element mass with less gliosis at the contusion site in curcumin-treated rats than controls.

Conclusions

Epidural administration of curcumin resulted in improved recovery from SCI. This occurred with no adverse effects noted in experimental animals. Therefore, curcumin treatment may translate into a novel therapy for humans with SCI.

Abbreviations used in this paper:BBB = Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan; DMSO = dimethyl sulfoxide; MDA = 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine; NF-κB = nuclear factor–κB; SCI = spinal cord injury; SOD = superoxide dismutase.

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Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Meena Jhanwar-Uniyal, Ph.D., Departments of Neurosurgery and Pathology, New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York 10595. email: meena_jhanwar@nymc.edu.

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online February 10, 2012; DOI: 10.3171/2012.1.SPINE11769.

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