'Biochemical storm' following brain trauma, an important factor in treatment

Oct. 28, 1999, GAINESVILLE---A forceful blow to the head can trigger a "Pacman-like" enzyme to begin gobbling up important structural proteins in the brain for up to one month afterward -- weeks longer than previously suspected, according to a University of Florida Brain Institute researcher.

The finding, based on studies in rats, suggests that treatment for traumatic brain injury must take into account tissue damage that continues to occur long after an accident. Although a number of studies recently have assessed therapies for traumatic brain injury, currently no effective treatment exists. "Emergency room medical personnel often talk about a golden hour, that if you don't get a person into treatment within the first hour or so after an injury, a lot of damage has been done to the patient," said Ronald L. Hayes, director of UF's planned Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Studies, a component of the university's multidisciplinary Brain Institute. "With traumatic brain injury, the thought has been that treatment within the first two days is critical." But data from Hayes' lab suggest this critical period may extend much longer.

"In our studies, we've found that a biochemical storm that is initiated with an injury continues for at least a month. The implication is that we may need to treat these patients over a much longer period than anyone had ever imagined," said Hayes, who reported his findings on the action of calpains on Saturday (10/23) at the annual meeting of the National Neurotrauma Society in Miami Beach. Calpains are a type of protein-destroying enzyme found in cells throughout the body.

"This is one of a very few research efforts that opens up a potential window for treatment in which we might be able to suppress the harmful activity of calpains while allowing repair to occur," said Kevin Wang, a senior research associate at Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research who is conducting laboratory experiments seeking to block the action of calpa

Contact: Victoria White
University of Florida

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