Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Blue Dye in M&Ms Helps Spinal Cord Injuries?

Compound Similar to Food Dye May Help People With Spinal Injuries Regain Movement
WebMD Health News

July 29, 2009 -- A compound that's similar to the blue food dye in Gatorade and M&Ms may hold promise for people with spinal cord injuries, new research says.

The compound, called Brilliant Blue G, blocks the cascade of events that leads to inflammation following a traumatic injury of the spinal cord, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center report in a study involving rats.

Inflammation often causes more irreversible damage than the initial trauma, but this secondary damage, considered inevitable, may one day be preventable, the scientists say in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Blue Dye Prevents Inflammation

After researchers led by Maiken Nedergaard, MD, director of neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, injected Brilliant Blue G into rats with spinal cord injuries, the rodents showed improved mobility and even hobbled about. They also temporarily turned blue.

Injured rats that were not given a dose of the blue dye didn’t walk at all.

The results of the study build on research by Nedergaard that was published in 2004 in the journal Nature Medicine.

That study showed that a substance called ATP, the energy source that keeps cells alive, runs out of control at the site of a spinal cord injury, activating a molecule known to cause inflammation and kill spinal neuron cells.

For these neurons, inflammation often causes more damage than the initial trauma to the spine, meaning that for treatment to work it must be administered immediately after the spinal cord injury.

Brilliant Blue G blocks ATP from flooding the spinal injury and triggering inflammation, the researchers say.

The authors say there is no effective way to “treat acute spinal cord injury, apart from the use of steroids, which provide at best modest protection to a subset of patients.”

Nedergaard says that although her research offers a promising new possible approach to treating spinal cord injuries, more research is needed.

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix