Researchers identify how inflammation spreads through the brain after injury

March 8, 2017, University of Maryland School of Medicine

Researchers have identified a new mechanism by which inflammation can spread throughout the brain after injury. This mechanism may explain the widespread and long-lasting inflammation that occurs after traumatic brain injury, and may play a role in other neurodegenerative diseases.

The findings were published today in a study in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.

This new understanding has the potential to transform how is understood, and, ultimately, how it is treated. The researchers showed that microparticles derived from inflammatory cells are markedly increased in both the brain and the blood following experimental traumatic (TBI). These microparticles carry pro-inflammatory factors that can activate normal immune cells, making them potentially toxic to brain neurons. Injecting such microparticles into the brains of uninjured animals creates progressive inflammation at both the injection site and eventually in more distant sites.

Research has found that neuroinflammation often goes on for years after TBI, causing chronic brain damage. The researchers say that the microparticles may play a key role in this process.

Chronic inflammation has been increasingly implicated in the progressive cell loss and neurological changes that occur after TBI. These inflammatory microparticles may be a key mechanism for chronic, progressive brain inflammation and may represent a new target for treating brain injury.

The researchers on the paper include four University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers: Alan Faden, Stephen R. Thom, Bogdan A. Stoica, and David Loane.

"These results potentially provide a new conceptual framework for understanding brain inflammation and its relationship to brain cell loss and neurological deficits after head injury, and may be relevant for other neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer disease in which neuroinflammation may also play a role," said Dr. Faden. "The idea that brain inflammation can trigger more inflammation at a distance through the release of microparticles may offer novel treatment targets for a number of important brain diseases."

The researchers studied mice, and found that in animals who had a , levels of microparticles in the blood were much higher. Because each kind of cell in the body has a distinct fingerprint, the researchers could track exactly where the microparticles came from. The microparticles they looked at in this study are released from cells known as microglia, immune cells that are common in the brain. After an injury, these cells often go into overdrive in an attempt to fix the injury. But this outsized response can change protective inflammatory responses to chronic destructive ones.

The findings have important potential clinical implications. The researchers say that microparticles in the blood have the potential to be used as a biomarker - a way to determine how serious a brain injury may be. This could help guide treatment of the injuries, whose severity is often difficult to gauge.

They also found that exposing the inflammatory to a compound called PEG-TB could neutralize them. This opens up the possibility of using that compound or others to treat TBI, and perhaps even other .

Explore further: Connection between brain inflammation and CTE identified

Related Stories

Connection between brain inflammation and CTE identified

November 2, 2016
For the first time, researchers have shown that inflammation in the brain may have direct involvement in the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). In addition, they found that the number of years one plays ...

Early intervention in brain inflammatory pathways may improve stroke recovery

November 28, 2016
Intracerebral hemorrhage is a type of stroke characterized by the rupture of a blood vessel within the brain. When the brain is exposed to blood, local immune cells become activated, triggering inflammation that promotes ...

What causes brain problems after traumatic brain injury? Studies have a surprising answer

January 15, 2015
A new paper by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) argues that there is a widespread misunderstanding about the true nature of traumatic brain injury and how it causes chronic degenerative ...

Do spinal cord injuries cause subsequent brain damage?

November 14, 2014
Most research on spinal cord injuries has focused on effects due to spinal cord damage and scientists have neglected the effects on brain function. University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) researchers have found ...

Experimental drug shows promise in treating Alzheimer's disease

October 25, 2016
An experimental drug shows promise in treating Alzheimer's disease by preventing inflammation and removing abnormal protein clumps in the brain that are associated with the disease, suggests a study in mice presented at the ...

Treating traumatic brain injury

January 6, 2017
After a traumatic brain injury (TBI), the brain produces an inflammatory response. This prolonged swelling is known as cerebral edema and can be fatal. Unfortunately, the only medications available just address symptoms and ...

Recommended for you

New neurons in the adult brain are involved in sensory learning

February 23, 2018
Although we have known for several years that the adult brain can produce new neurons, many questions about the properties conferred by these adult-born neurons were left unanswered. What advantages could they offer that ...

Neuroscientists discover a brain signal that indicates whether speech has been understood

February 22, 2018
Neuroscientists from Trinity College Dublin and the University of Rochester have identified a specific brain signal associated with the conversion of speech into understanding. The signal is present when the listener has ...

Study in mice suggests personalized stem cell treatment may offer relief for multiple sclerosis

February 22, 2018
Scientists have shown in mice that skin cells re-programmed into brain stem cells, transplanted into the central nervous system, help reduce inflammation and may be able to help repair damage caused by multiple sclerosis ...

Nolan film 'Memento' reveals how the brain remembers and interprets events from clues

February 22, 2018
Key repeating moments in the film give viewers the information they need to understand the storyline. The scenes cause identical reactions in the viewer's brain. The results deepen our understanding of how the brain functions, ...

Biomarker, clues to possible therapy found in novel childhood neurogenetic disease

February 22, 2018
Researchers studying a rare genetic disorder that causes severe, progressive neurological problems in childhood have discovered insights into biological mechanisms that drive the disease, along with early clues that an amino ...

A look at the space between mouse brain cells

February 22, 2018
Between the brain's neurons and glial cells is a critical but understudied structure that's been called neuroscience's final frontier: the extracellular space. With a new imaging paradigm, scientists can now see into and ...

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.