Six weeks after injecting the blue dye, the research team killed and dissected the treated rat to inspect its spinal cord (pictured)—though not entirely without regrets. "It was so cute, that rat," study co-author Nedergaard said.
The team was surprised to find that the spinal cord was still blue—the rat's skin and eyes had returned to normal after one week.
With a blue complexion as the only side effect, the substance may someday be the first major intervention available for people with spinal cord trauma, Nedergaard said.
"The problem is we don't have any treatment now," she said, adding that steroids are currently the most common medication used to help spinal-trauma patients. "That was really what prompted the search.
As far as I can see, every patient can receive the blue food dye, because there's no downside."
Photograph courtesy Takahiro Takano