Turns out some mysterious chemical additives may not be all bad. The sports drink and Popsicle color additive known as "brilliant blue" might have some serious benefits for people who suffer from spinal injuries, a new study reports.

In the days after a spinal cord injury, a lot is happening, and not all of it is good for the injured party. ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which usually acts as a power source for cells, floods into the injury site. But instead of helping cell recovery, ATP can unintentionally bind with important receptors on some immune cells. This can restrict oxygen flow to the cells and lead to some of the serious damage associated with spinal injuries


This colorizing chemical, also known as Blue No. 1, serves to prevent ATP from wreaking this havoc. When administered very soon after spinal injury in rats, the blue dye helped the rats recover faster and more fully. The results, which are being reported in the July 28th issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicate that the blue dye could be used in humans for the same types of injuries.

The treatment seems to be pretty much side-effect free. Well, except for one unintended consequence: the dye treatment temporarily turns skin and eyes blue. But being blue for a few weeks is a small price to pay for spinal injury recovery. Even if it means blue skin, I'll gladly sign up for my Brawndo treatment.

Brilliant Blue For The Spine [via Science News]

(Photo: Takahiro Takano)