Researchers help find new therapeutic target for treating traumatic brain injury

(Medical Xpress)—A research team including members of the Department of Bioengineering in the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science has discovered that drug intervention to reduce intercellular signaling between astrocytes following traumatic brain injury reduces cognitive deficits and damage.

David F. Meaney led the study alongside members of his lab and researchers from Penn's Perelman School of Medicine, Columbia University, Rutgers University and Tufts University.

It was published in the journal Brain.

will be the third highest cause of death and disability in the world by 2020, according to researchers. Existing therapies, which focus on the early changes that occur within neurons of the brain after injury, may interfere with the brain's processing of information through its connected networks.

The collaborative group of investigators discovered that intercellular signaling between astrocytes, the star-shaped glial cells in the brain and spinal cord, plays a prominent role in cell death after brain injury. The team found that a single injury to the brain can trigger widespread signaling through the astrocyte network, which can adversely affect the communication among neurons in the network.

"We were initially very surprised that the effect of astrocyte signaling on neuronal communication was so profound after injury," Meaney said.

By studying how these changes traveled through the astrocytes in the brain and in cell culture, the team discovered one specific type of signaling that could reduce the response dramatically. After screening several , the team showed that one type of drug could improve cognitive recovery following a single traumatic brain injury.

"We are very excited at the promise of this new direction for treating ," Meaney said, "because it may represent a different angle of attack for treating a complicated disease."

More information: brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/136/1/65.long

Related Stories

Astrocyte signaling sheds light on stroke research

date Mar 18, 2013

New research published in The Journal of Neuroscience suggests that modifying signals sent by astrocytes, our star-shaped brain cells, may help to limit the spread of damage after an ischemic brain stroke. The study in mic ...

Recommended for you

Researcher observes active role of auditory neurons

date 15 minutes ago

Cells in the brainstem that underlie sound localization, compare signals at the two ears and can pause while doing so. This was shown by researchers at the Laboratory for Auditory Neurophysiology in Leuven, ...

Diet rich in methionine may promote memory loss

date 21 hours ago

Memory loss has recently been associated with excessive silencing of genes through a process called methylation. Researchers at the University of Louisville investigated the effects of a diet rich in methionine—an amino ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.