Researchers prevent post-traumatic brain damage

(Washington, DC)--In animal studies, researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center have shown how traumatic brain injury leads to loss of brain function--and found that an experimental drug can stop the damage and promote recovery.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the researchers say their findings may hold promise for the treatment of human traumatic brain injury, a condition they say affects almost half a million Americans a year and which is currently untreatable.

"Our study suggests that it might be possible to effectively prevent much of the injury-induced brain damage," said the study's principal investigator, Alan Faden, MD, Professor of Neuroscience, Neurology and Pharmacology at Georgetown University Medical Center, and Director of the Laboratory for the Study of Central Nervous System Injury.

"We always have to be cautious in predicting human outcome from a study in rats, but the prevention of brain damage that we saw in this study is nothing short of remarkable," he said. Rats untreated after head injury were left 28 days later with a large hole in their brain from death of cells surrounded by a scar, whereas the brains in those rats treated with the experimental drug, Flavopiridol, were nearly intact, with cognitive and motor function recovered, Faden said. "These rats were no different from the ones that had not experienced brain injury," he said.

The approach that Faden and his research team have taken was suggested by findings from extensive gene studies conducted at Georgetown. Rather than trying to stop the earliest damage that results from the direct mechanical injury--the approach that is now most often used clinically--the Georgetown researchers took the tactic of trying to limit a second, and much larger, "wave of damage" which they have found usually peaks from 24-72 hours after injury. During this time, "glial" cells, which provide support and nutri

Contact: Laura Cavender
Georgetown University Medical Center

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