Spinal cord injury results in a massive loss of neurons. It has been suggested that passive transfer of autoimmune T cells directed against myelin-associated antigens provides the spinal cord with effective neuroprotection. In August 15 Journal of Clinical Investigation, Ehud Hauben and colleagues from The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel show for the first time a vaccination protocol that can be used as a strategy to prevent total paralysis after incomplete spinal cord injury.
Hauben et al. used a rat model of spinal cord injury and found that immunization with myelin basic protein (MBP) derived altered peptide ligands resulted in significant protection from neuronal loss. Vaccinated rats showed a reduced extent of paralysis, as assessed by an open-field behavioural test. Retrograde labeling of the rubrospinal tracts and magnetic resonance imaging supported the behavioural results (J Clin Invest 2001, 108:591-599).
The therapeutic window for vaccination treatment is at least one week after injury. Vaccination may also prove effective in other disorders of the central nervous system, such as stroke or traumatic brain injury.