Researchers at Purdue University are studying a new drug called 4-aminopyridine-3-methyl hydroxide which essentially tricks the body into thinking the coating which surrounds the nerves (myelin) is intact. Generally, compression injuries damage the coating around the nerves which block the electrical impulse from the brain. Given the nerve is intact in a compression injury; this research is breaking ground in the area of compression spinal cord injury.
The myelin sheath serves to protect the central nervous system’s electrical impulses from the brain to the part of the body intended to move or react. When the myelin is damaged it exposes what are called the fast-potassium channels within the central nervous system which are critical to the conduction of the signal’s energy. When the sheath is broken, the conduction stops. 4-aminopyridine has been studied to promote the management of Multiple Sclerosis for several years now. What this drug has enabled is a longer amount of time between the impulses so it can jump the damaged myelin.
Experimental Drug, 4-Aminopyridine-3-Methyl Hydroxide Shows Promise for Spinal Cord Injury Patients
4-aminopyridine-3-methyl hydroxide is a derivative of 4-aminopyridine and found to be a potassium channel blocker. This was discovered when researchers measured the conduction of the current using a piece of equipment called a “Patch Clamp”. By adding the 3-methyl hydroxide the 4-aminopyridine not only slows the conduction rate but it is now able to block the potassium. Essentially, the body is tricked into thinking the damage doesn’t exist bypassing the fast-potassium channels and enhances nerve conduction to below the areas of damage in the myelin sheath!
Another important factor is that 4-aminopyridine-3-methyl hydroxide is about 10 times stronger than of 4-aminopyridine, meaning lower doses can be prescribed which will reduce the potential for serious side effects. Researchers are hopeful that 4-aminopyridine-3-methyl hydroxide may be a better solution for treating Multiple Sclerosis and myasthenia gravis as well, but it is too early to say.