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Breakthroughs

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New hope for spinal cord injury sufferers

Queensland researchers are launching a world-first clinical trial aimed at improving recovery from spinal cord injuries.

In the study, led by The University of Queensland and The Princess Alexandra (PA) Hospital, a new anti-inflammatory drug will be given to participants within hours of spinal trauma in an effort to minimise tissue damage.

Dr Marc Ruitenberg, from the university’s School of Biomedical Sciences, said when the spinal cord is injured, it becomes inflamed and this causes a lot of additional damage.

“Up until now, doctors had no real treatment options to deal with this problem,” Dr Ruitenberg said.

“What we discovered in our animal studies is intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) therapy can reduce this harmful inflammation and, excitingly, significantly improve the recovery from serious spinal cord injuries.”

Spinal surgeon Dr Kate Campbell, who is heading up the trial with Dr Ruitenberg, said one of the great benefits of IVIg is that it is safe and already used in the hospital for other conditions.

“As a result, we have been able to quickly progress this treatment from the lab to the clinic,” she said.

The trial will run for three years and will aim to recruit 20 participants through the PA Hospital, which is Queensland’s primary centre for spinal injury care.

“Spinal injuries are devastating, and with few options available to effectively treat the inflammation that occurs, we are very pleased that Dr Ruitenberg’s team are getting closer to finding a solution,” Dr Campbell said.  

 


 

Yoga could help depression

People who suffer from depression should take yoga and deep breathing classes at least twice weekly to receive a significant reduction in their symptoms, according to research conducted by Boston University in the USA.

The findings, which appear in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, provide preliminary support for the use of yoga-based interventions as an alternative or supplement to pharmacologic treatments for depression.

As part of the study, individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) were allocated to either a high-dose group, which participated in three 90-minute classes a week along with home practice, or the low dose group, which did two 90-minute classes a week, plus home practice.

According to the study, both groups had significant decreases in their depressive symptoms and no significant differences in compliance. Although a greater number of subjects in the high dose group had less depressive symptoms, the researchers believe attending twice weekly classes (plus home practice) may still be an effective way to gain the mood benefits from the intervention.

“This study supports the use of a yoga and coherent breathing intervention in major depressive disorder in people who are not on antidepressants and in those who have been on a stable dose of antidepressants and have not achieved a resolution of their symptoms,” said associate professor of psychiatry and neurology, Dr Chris Streeter.  

According to Dr Streeter, compared with mood altering medications, yoga has the advantages of avoiding additional drug side effects and drug interactions.

“While most pharmacologic treatment for depression target monoamine systems, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, this intervention targets the parasympathetic and gamma aminobutyric acid system and provides a new avenue for treatment.”

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is common, recurrent, chronic and disabling. Due in part to its prevalence, depression is globally responsible for more years lost to disability than any other disease.