Timing is key for traumatic brain injury treatment

October 14, 2014 by David Ellis

Researchers at the University of Adelaide have discovered two potential treatments for traumatic brain injury that are most effective when given at different stages after the injury has occurred.

Laboratory studies conducted in the University's School of Medical Sciences have confirmed that changes in water channels over time play a critical role in traumatic .

For his PhD at the University, researcher Dr Joshua Burton tested two compounds that alter the natural flow of water activity in and out of the brain. He found that recovery from brain injury can be greatly assisted when these compounds are given at the right times.

Dr Burton's work could point to the potential development of new drugs as well as new approaches to preventing brain damage and death. The research also has implications for treatment of after stroke.

"One of the serious consequences of is an increase in brain moisture content and associated brain swelling, which significantly impacts patients' neurological outcomes. This swelling can occur for days after the initial injury and is frequently life-threatening," Dr Burton says.

"The water channels normally function to protect the brain, but in the case of or stroke they become a pathway of vulnerability that allows swelling. Unfortunately, the swelling creates pressure within the skull – there's nowhere for the brain to expand to – decreasing oxygen levels and blood to the brain."

Dr Burton has found that applying a drug that closes the water channels can inhibit initial water entry, helping to close the window of vulnerability. A second drug used later in the progression of the injury acts to enhance the water channel activity, letting superfluous moisture out when needed. "By using both of these compounds – a blocker at the early stage of injury, and an activator at the later stage – we're able to complement the brain's natural healing processes and maintain a reduced level of swelling," he says.

This work builds on more than a decade of research conducted by the University of Adelaide's Professor Andrea Yool on the water channel proteins known as "aquaporins".

"Dr Burton's work is groundbreaking because it clarifies the roles of aquaporins in the brain during the short and long-term responses to traumatic head injury. This work also demonstrates for the first time that recently discovered drug-like compounds can be used in series to initially reduce water entry and then enhance water exit over time," Professor Yool says.

"Most current therapeutic approaches are limited in their ability to reduce injury-induced brain swelling, and no treatments are available to resolve excess fluid at a later stage. While much more research is needed, there is exciting potential here for new interventions in clinical situations. New approaches that can improve the outlook for patients, especially in the later stages of injury development, would be of great benefit," she says.

Explore further: Stroke-fighting drug offers potential treatment for traumatic brain injury

Related Stories

Stroke-fighting drug offers potential treatment for traumatic brain injury

October 7, 2014
The only drug currently approved for treatment of stroke's crippling effects shows promise, when administered as a nasal spray, to help heal similar damage in less severe forms of traumatic brain injury.

Longitudinal study explores white matter damage, cognition after traumatic axonal injury

September 3, 2014
Traumatic Axonal Injury is a form of traumatic brain injury that can have detrimental effects on the integrity of the brain's white matter and lead to cognitive impairments. A new study from the Center for BrainHealth at ...

Marijuana use associated with lower death rates in patients with traumatic brain injuries

October 2, 2014
Surveying patients with traumatic brain injuries, a group of Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) researchers reported today that they found those who tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, ...

Scientists study impact of cultural diversity in brain injury research

August 27, 2014
Kessler Foundation scientists examined the implications for cultural diversity and cultural competence in brain injury research and rehabilitation. The article by Anthony Lequerica, PhD, and Denise Krch, PhD: Issues of cultural ...

Even mild traumatic brain injury may cause brain damage

July 16, 2014
Even mild traumatic brain injury may cause brain damage and thinking and memory problems, according to a study published in the July 16, 2014, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Recommended for you

Small but distinct differences among species mark evolution of human brain

November 23, 2017
The most dramatic divergence between humans and other primates can be found in the brain, the primary organ that gives our species its identity.

Team constructs whole-brain map of electrical connections key to forming memories

November 22, 2017
A team of neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania has constructed the first whole-brain map of electrical connectivity in the brain based on data from nearly 300 neurosurgical patients with electrodes implanted ...

To forget or to remember? Memory depends on subtle brain signals, scientists find

November 22, 2017
The fragrance of hot pumpkin pie can bring back pleasant memories of holidays past, while the scent of an antiseptic hospital room may cause a shudder. The power of odors to activate memories both pleasing and aversive exists ...

Pitch imperfect? How the brain decodes pitch may improve cochlear implants

November 22, 2017
Picture yourself with a friend in a crowded restaurant. The din of other diners, the clattering of dishes, the muffled notes of background music, the voice of your friend, not to mention your own – all compete for your ...

New research suggests high-intensity exercise boosts memory

November 22, 2017
The health advantages of high-intensity exercise are widely known but new research from McMaster University points to another major benefit: better memory.

Schizophrenia originates early in pregnancy, 'mini-brain' research suggests

November 20, 2017
Symptoms of schizophrenia usually appear in adolescence or young adulthood, but new research reveals that the brain disease likely begins very early in development, toward the end of the first trimester of pregnancy. The ...

0 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.