Immune Suppression Drug Could Prevent Pain from Spinal Cord Injuries

Mice treated with rapamycin showed improved locomotor function and reduced sensitivity.

A common drug used for immune suppression in organ transplant patients could also potentially be used to reduce damage and pain from a spinal cord injury.

Rapamycin, an inhibitor of the mTOR pathway, is known to be an immunosuppressant and have anti-tumor properties, according to a study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research. Prior studies have shown that rapamycin can potentially decrease nerve damage and locomotor impairment after spinal cord injury.

In the current study, researchers discovered that it can also reduce neuropathic pain in mice. They used a mouse model of thoracic spinal cord contusion injury, which were divided into rapamycin-treated and control groups.

Treatment with rapamycin 4 hours after spinal cord injury improved locomotor function and reduced sensitivity in hind paws. Researchers found that rapamycin decreased the activity of many pathways involved in pain.

If the same proves true in humans, rapamycin could potentially improve pain for patients with spinal cord injuries.

"Further studies to clarify the impact and full effects of mTOR signaling are needed in order to support the clinical use of mTOR inhibitors in patients with spinal cord injury," the authors concluded.