Sydney: A new approach to treating spinal injuries among animals could pave the way for prevention of paralysis in thousands of people worldwide every year.

Ben Goss, researcher at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Institute for Health and Biomedical Innovation, investigated how the spine could be protected after an injury.

"At present spinal cord injury is permanent and irreversible, but I believe our research has the potential to improve outcomes and this might be the first step to achieving a cure," said Goss, the Journal of Neurotrauma reported.

"The initial injury to the spinal cord is much like a bruise. However, unlike ordinary bruises the spinal cord has a persistent inflammatory response that leads to further damage, our research is looking at the effects of adding proteins, also known as growth factors, to the spinal cord to reduce or switch off the inflammation and prevent secondary neurological (brain or spinal cell) damage, " he added.

The treatment, which combined specific proteins, was applied to animals immediately after a spinal cord injury and evaluated after one and three month periods, a university statement said.

Goss said researchers from Griffith University also found the size of the lesion (damage) caused by the spinal cord injury significantly smaller in the treated group compared to animals that did not receive treatment.

"This study has demonstrated for the first time a treatment can reduce or eliminate secondary degeneration after traumatic injury to the spinal cord," he said.