Blue M&Ms to Treat Spinal Injuries

A new research paper from researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center details a study that shows a common food dye, FD&C Blue Dye #1, may hold a key in treating spinal cord injuries. This blue dye is found in many foods including M&Ms candy and Gatorade. Building on research that came out five years ago which showed that the compound adenosine triphosphate (ATP) floods the site of nerve injury and causes secondary injury preventing healing, the researchers found that an oxidized form of ATP prevented further injury by blocking the harmful effects of ATP. Normally ATP is a good thing for our bodies as it is like a battery inside our cells to provide energy for sustained life. But too much may not be a good thing. 

The problem with using oxidized ATP as a therapeutic agent is that it cannot be administered through the blood stream and needs to be injected directly into the spinal column at the site of injury to be effective. This would not be practical. Instead the scientists found that the compound Brilliant Blue G (BBG), which is structurally and functionally equivalent to Blue Dye #1, had the same effect when administered intravenously. Rats that received BBG improved from spinal cord injuries to the point of being able to walk while those that had not received BBG remained immobile. The only side effect worth noting was a blue coloration of the skin. The rat’s normally pink skin had an unmistakably smurf-like appearance. Further investigation needs to be done before human trials can begin but you may soon see blue tinged people happily walking soon.

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