Blue M&M’s, Gatorade and Jell-O Linked to Healing Spinal Cord Injuries

Jan 12, 2011
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We all know that albino animals have pink eyes and skin.  So why is this albino lab rat blue?  According to new research, the same blue food dye found in M&Ms, Jell-O and Gatorade could be used to reduce damage caused by spinal cord injuries. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that when they injected the compound Brilliant Blue G (BBG) into rats suffering from spinal cord injuries, the rodents were able to walk again, although with a limp, CNN reports.

The only side effect was that the treated mice temporarily turned blue.

In August 2004, a study revealed how Adenosine triphosphate, which is known as ATP and described as the “energy currency of life,” surges to the spinal cord soon after injury occurs.

Researchers discovered that the sudden influx of ATP destroyed the healthy cells, making the initial damage far worse. However, when they injected oxidized ATP into the injury, they found that they could block the effect of ATP, allowing the injured rats to recover and walk again.

Lead researcher, Maiken Nedergaard, professor of Neurosurgery and director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center cautions that this process would not be practical for people with spinal cord injuries.

“First, no one wants to put a needle into a spinal cord that has just been severely injured, so we knew we needed to find another way to quickly deliver an agent that would stop ATP from killing healthy motor neurons. Second, the compound we initially used, oxidized ATP, cannot be injected into the bloodstream because of its dangerous side effects.”

In 2004, Nedergaard’s team revealed that the spinal cord was rich in a molecule called P2X7, which is also known as “the death receptor” for its capacity to allow ATP to latch onto motor neurons and send the signals which eventually kill them.

Nedergaard knew that BBG (the Brilliant Blue dye we find in our favorite foods) could thwart the function of P2X7, and its similarity to a blue food dye approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1982 gave her the confidence to test it intravenously.

It worked. The rats given BBG intravenously immediately after their injury could walk again with a limp. Those that didn’t receive a dose never regained their mobility.

Currently, there is no standard treatment for patients with spinal injury when they reach the hospital emergency room.

“Right now we only treat 15 percent of the patients we receive with steroids and many hospitals question if that even works for that 15 percent; it’s a very moderate benefit to only a subset of patients. So right now 85 percent of patients are untreated,” she said.

Nedergaard said the research team isn’t claiming that BBG can cure spinal injuries; instead that it offers a potential improvement in patients’ condition.

The dose must be administered immediately after the injury, before additional tissue dies as a result of the initial injury.

Researchers are currently pulling together an application to be lodged with the FDA to stage the first clinical trials of BBG on human patients.

But funding may be difficult.

Though more research is necessary, it may be very difficult to find a drug company willing to sponsor the trials. “There’s no commercial interest because you can buy it by the pound,” Nedergaard told Wired. “We’re planning a clinical trial here in Rochester, but we’ll have to wait for funding from the government.”

On a side not, Americans eat over 100 million lbs. of this blue dye every year. Luckily, it seems the dye has to be injected in order to turn skin blue.

Author: Jennifer Green

  • spinal injury claim

    Nice read…. thanks..:)

  • webmaster solutions

    Injuries are really very dangerous for everybody but it become more dangerous when it converts to Hospital Injury.

  • Jasmine

    I’ve been researching this mysterious “blue M&M” trend, and wonder why an article utilizing references that were over 18 months old at the time of publication and which had no subsequent updated information or clinical trials.