The basic problem has been understood for years... long term spinal cord damage is most often not from the initial injury. It's from subsequent inflammation that chokes off the blood flow to the nervous tissue, killing it. Scientists have performed a series of tests with a rat showing that injection of a common blue food coloring (apparently used in blue Gatorade), within a few minutes after the injury, inhibits the damage-causing inflammation.
Hence the blue rat. Three more photos and the full story at NatGeo.