Study design: To evaluate a potential protective effect of increased creatine levels in spinal cord injury (SCI) in an animal model.
Objectives: Acute SCI initiates a series of cellular and molecular events in the injured tissue leading to further damage in the surrounding area. This secondary damage is partly due to ischemia and a fatal intracellular loss of energy. Phospho-creatine in conjunction with the creatine kinase isoenzyme system acts as a potent intracellular energy buffer. Oral creatine supplementation has been shown to elevate the phospho-creatine content in brain and muscle tissue, leading to neuroprotective effects and increased muscle performance.
Setting: Zurich, Switzerland.
Methods: Twenty adult rats were fed for 4 weeks with or without creatine supplemented nutrition before undergoing a moderate spinal cord contusion.
Results: Following an initial complete hindlimb paralysis, rats of both groups substantially recovered within 1 week. However, creatine fed animals scored 2.8 points better than the controls in the BBB open field locomotor score (11.9 and 9.1 points respectively after 1 week; P=0.035, and 13 points compared to 11.4 after 2 weeks). The histological examination 2 weeks after SCI revealed that in all rats a cavity had developed which was comparable in size between the groups. In creatine fed rats, however, a significantly smaller amount of scar tissue surrounding the cavity was found.
Conclusions: Thus creatine treatment seems to reduce the spread of secondary injury. Our results favour a pretreatment of patients with creatine for neuroprotection in cases of elective intramedullary spinal surgery. Further studies are needed to evaluate the benefit of immediate creatine administration in case of acute spinal cord or brain injury.