One of the experimental rats, before and after injection with the blue food dye.
Spinal injuries are both common and devastating, leaving many victims paralyzed and relegated to wheelchairs for the rest of their lives. But in most cases, the worst spinal cord damage doesn't happen at the scene of the injury - it's the swelling around the spinal cord and the crazy firing and burning out of otherwise healthy neurons in the hours and days following the incident that turns a bad situation permanently worse. Now, scientists in Rochester, New York, have discovered a simple way to stop a lot of this secondary damage in its tracks - using the same, familiar blue food dye that gives M&Ms and blue icy poles their color. Patients with spinal injuries could escape with vastly reduced loss of function - but they'll turn bright blue in the process.