A New Neurological Discovery Could Help Treat Traumatic Brain Injuries


Scientists have officially discovered two previously unidentified molecules in mice that protect nerve cells following a traumatic brain injury. This could help reduce the number of deaths that occur because of this with the advent of new medicines that target those protective cells.

The only way doctors and scientists have attempted to treat traumatic brain injuries — or TBIs — before was through the prevention of neurological degeneration following the incident. Because there is no effective treatment method to stop nerve degeneration from occurring, traumatic brain injuries are the leading cause of death in individuals under 45.

“The big issue with treatment after TBI is that there are no drugs that work well on patients to restore memory, and we’re targeting reconnectivity of neural circuitry,” said professor and author Bonnie L. Firestein of Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

These two newly identified molecules could lead to new drugs aimed at preventing this degeneration from occurring following a TBI.

Countless people across the globe have suffered from a traumatic brain injury. If they survive, this can cause neurological damage, disability both physically and mentally, early dementia and the development of cognitive disorders, mental illnesses, and epilepsy in some individuals.

An estimated 6.8 million U.S. citizens rely on supportive devices designed to help aid their mobility, but countless individuals don’t get the proper medical treatment needed to deal with the cause of their illness.

For less severe cases of TBI, there is also a new way of diagnosing when a traumatic injury has occurred. Scientists have learned that when brain cells are damaged, they release a protein that’s apparent in the bloodstream. By testing the blood of the individual following a head injury, the individual will be able to tell whether or not brain cells have been hurt and TBI has occurred.

The blood test is similar to a pregnancy test; a drop of blood is placed on a well and the results display within 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the at-home system designed to test the blood for these proteins has not been commercialized. As such, they are not available for widespread use.

This kind of test can benefit anyone, whether they are active in sports, or simply need help following a traumatic incident. For natural disasters, this type of tool could be life-saving. Facebook reported that the term “earthquake” appeared in over three million statuses within the first four minutes of the East Coast earthquake of 2011. Should someone be injured in a natural disaster, this technology has the potential to save millions.

However, this information could be even more beneficial to the countless athletes who hit their heads. Whether it be soccer, football, or even basketball, these sports are known to cause concussions, which can lead to greater brain damage if left untreated or undiagnosed.

Recently, Carolina Panthers player Ross Cockrell severely injured his left leg after colliding with a teammate during a practice drill. Apparently, the injury was so severe, observers could hear the bone crack.

Fortunately, the leg will heal over time. If it had been Cockrell’s head that was damaged, however, it might be a different story.

For previous TBI sufferers, it’s unknown if the molecule will be effective in treating older injuries.

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