Monday, August 3, 2009

'Brilliant Blue' Food Dye Halts Spinal Cord Damage after Injury

I love reading about stuff like this. Naturally, my first reaction when I saw the words 'blue dye in M&M's and Gatorade' was to assume that the news would be nothing but negative. I figured the story would go on to say that stuff was linked to cancer or some other horrible illness. Imagine my surprise when I found out that there could actually be some positive uses for blue food colouring.

Let me explain. According to a recent study published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the dye, called Brilliant Blue G (or BBG for short), can actually stop the cascade of molecular events that starts with a spinal cord injury. If this series of molecular events can be halted, it can prevent the spreading of damage to the injured area and can help prevent more serious paralysis from occurring.

During spinal cord injury, a compound called ATP (a vital source of energy in cells) pours out into the area surrounding the injury, killing off other healthy cells and making matters even worse. One way to stop the spilling of ATP is to inject oxidized ATP into the area, but this is difficult, tricky and disconcerting for patients who have just injured their spinal cords. In light of this difficulty, the search for another compound that can deliver the same results sans spinal cord injection has somehow led researchers to our beloved BBG.

With an IV injection of BBG, the damage to the spinal cords of injured rats was significantly reduced and the rats were actually able to walk again, albeit with a limp. Oh yeah and they kind of turned blue for a little while but I guess that part isn't so important considering the bigger picture.

Hey, I bet you never thought that those blue M&M's and Gatorade were good for anything other than pure indulgence but look who's laughing now!