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October 19, 2009

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Spinal injury treatment

A COMMON antidepressant combined with an intensive treadmill training program helped people with partial spinal cord injuries walk better and faster, American researchers said yesterday.

They said Forest Laboratories' antidepressant Lexapro, or escitalopram, which affects a message-carrying brain chemical called serotonin, helps strengthen remaining nerve connections along the spine, giving patients with spinal cord injuries more ability to control their muscles during training.

"The drug is enhancing the effects of the therapy," said George Hornby, a research scientist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, who is presenting his findings at the Society for Neuroscience's meeting in Chicago. "The drug on its own isn't a miracle drug. What you need is the drug plus the training."

The findings are the first in humans and builds on studies in animals that found giving serotonin-like drugs after spinal cord injuries can promote recovery of walking when paired with an intensive training program.

For their study, Hornby and colleagues tested the effects of antidepressants in 50 people who had partial ability to move a year after they had suffered a spinal cord injury.

While both groups improved, those who took Lexapro were able to walk much faster, according to the study.


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