Penn study shows that head trauma produces Alzheimer's-like neurodegeneration

Experimental evidence that brain trauma is an environmental risk factor for Alzheimer's

(Philadelphia, PA) -- Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have shown -- for the first time in an animal model -- that Alzheimer's disease-like pathology is triggered in the brain following head trauma.

Indeed, the team of Penn scientists has determined that the biochemical process that leads to the development of plaques in brain-injured animals mirrors the plaque-forming process in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. This finding supports previous epidemiological evidence that brain trauma in humans increases the risk for developing Alzheimer's disease later in life. The researchers' work is being published in the September issue of the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology.

This study points to the importance of increased awareness about brain-trauma prevention -- especially in the form of preventable injury. "Our study suggests that even moderate brain injury resulting from a tremendous change-in-velocity can cause axonal damage sufficient to launch an insidiously progressive degenerative process," said Douglas H. Smith, MD, lead author and associate professor of neurosurgery at Penn. Given that head trauma is the only known environmental risk-factor for the development of Alzheimer's disease, the researchers suggest that society renew its commitment to better educate citizens about the specific risk-reduction behaviors that can be used to prevent head trauma or mitigate its devastating effects. These behaviors include the wearing of seat belts when driving an automobile and the wearing of helmets when riding a motorcycle or bicycle.

Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI) Replicated

Using anesthetized pigs, the researchers duplicated the same ty

Contact: Rebecca Harmon
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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