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Archive - Aug 19, 2013

Novel Chinese Herbal Medicine Improves Spinal Cord Injury Outcomes in Rats

A new study, published online on June 12, 2013 in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, demonstrates that the Chinese herbal medicine Ji-Sui-Kang (JSK), given systemically for three weeks after injury in rats, improved locomotor function, reduced tissue damage, and preserved the structure of neural cells compared to control rats. The report also includes data showing that JSK may first act to reduce inflammation and cell apoptosis and death, and boost local oxygen supply while, later on, it appears to restore function and promote tissue regeneration. Although Chinese herbal medicines have traditionally been used for a variety of ailments, the rationale for their use relies more on anecdotal evidence than the results of modern-day controlled experiments. "A number of anecdotal reports from Chinese medicine practitioners indicate that treatment with a novel herbal formulation, JSK, for periods of one week or three months improved functional recovery," explains co-lead investigator Shucui Jiang, M.D., Ph.D., head of the Hamilton NeuroRestorative Group at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. "Our present study provides an important and necessary foundation for further studies of JSK." In this study, rats began JSK treatment immediately after undergoing spinal cord injury. Within 7 days, hindlimb locomotor function was significantly better in JSK-treated rats compared to those receiving only saline. JSK-treated rats continued to have better motor function than controls throughout the 21-day test period and treated animals appeared to support their weight better and have more coordinated movements.

Mechanism Determined for How Beneficial Bacteria Persist and Thrive in GI Tract

The human body is full of tiny microorganisms—hundreds to thousands of species of bacteria collectively called the microbiome, which are believed to contribute to a healthy existence. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract—and the colon in particular—is home to the largest concentration and highest diversity of bacterial species. But how do these organisms persist and thrive in a system that is constantly in flux due to foods and fluids moving through it? A team led by California Institute of Technology (Caltech) biologist Dr. Sarkis Mazmanian believes it has found the answer, at least in one common group of bacteria: i.e., a set of genes that promotes stable microbial colonization of the gut. A study describing the researchers' findings was published as an advance online publication of the journal Nature on August 18, 2013. "By understanding how these microbes colonize, we may someday be able to devise ways to correct for abnormal changes in bacterial communities—changes that are thought to be connected to disorders like obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and autism," says Dr. Mazmanian, a professor of biology at Caltech whose work explores the link between human gut bacteria and health. The researchers began their study by running a series of experiments to introduce a genus of microbes called Bacteriodesto into sterile, or germ-free, mice. Bacteriodes, a group of bacteria that has several dozen species, was chosen because it is one of the most abundant genuses in the human microbiome, it can be cultured in the lab (unlike most gut bacteria), and it can be genetically modified to introduce specific mutations. "Bacteriodes are the only genus in the microbiome that fit these three criteria," Dr. Mazmanian says. Lead author Dr. S. Melanie Lee, who was an M.D./Ph.D. student in Dr.