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Prophylactic dietary restriction may promote functional recovery and increase lifespan after spinal cord injury


Address for correspondence: Wolfram Tetzlaff, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Man in Motion Chair in Spinal Cord Research, Assoc. Director ICORD (International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries), University of British Columbia Blusson Spinal Cord Centre, 818 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, BC, Canada V5Z 1M9.


Functional recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI) is limited, and the injury results in a dramatic reduction in long-term lifespan. Prophylactic dietary restriction (DR) robustly extends animal lifespan, and is beneficial in models of neuronal insult. In rats, we found that one form of DR, every-other-day-fasting (EODF), which started 1 month prior to a cervical SCI improved functional recovery, resulted in greater numbers of neurons surrounding the injury site, and a ∼ 45% reduction in lesion size compared to the control group. In the light of the low-risk implementation of prophylactic EODF, the clinical translation as a treatment prior to elective subacute or chronic interventions is attractive. There are numerous secondary complications after human SCI, including a 13- to 25-year reduction in lifespan. DR consistently increases median and maximal lifespan in a large range of organisms, including non-human primates. Animal research suggests that EODF might reduce many of the secondary complications people with SCI suffer from. Dietary interventions may provide the possibility to improve the quality and span of life for individuals with SCI.