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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 in a study in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.
This new understanding has the potential to transform how brain inflammation is understood, and, ultimately, how it is treated. The researchers showed that microparticles derived from brain inflammatory cells are markedly increased in both the brain and the blood following experimental traumatic brain injury (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 traumatic brain injury, 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 microparticles 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 neurodegenerative diseases.
March 2017, Vol. 5, No. 9
Timely reporting on developments and legal strategies at the intersection of sports and concussions—articles that benefit practicing attorneys who may be pursuing a claim or defending a client.
Concussion Lawsuit Puts Focus on Tracking Concussed Athletes After They Leave the Playing Field and Engage in Other School Activities; Experts Weigh In
New York State Attorney General Goes After Company that Allegedly Scammed Concussion Victims
Court Denies NFL’s Statute of Limitations Argument in Concussion Case Involving Player from the 1950s
Attorney: Connecticut Concussion Bill Falls Short
Diagnosing a Sports Concussion Remains a Vexing Challenge
Former High School Football Player Sues School District, Others Over Alleged Failure to Follow Concussion Protocol
NHL’s Subpoena Regarding CTE: Valid Production Request or Invasion of Privacy?
Women May Be at Higher Risk for Sports-Related Concussion Than Men
Every March, the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) leads the nation in recognizing Brain Injury Awareness Month, a time to acknowledge and support the millions of Americans impacted by brain injury. The theme for the 2015-2017 awareness campaign is Not Alone.
More than 2.5 million people sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in the United States every year, and an additional 1 million face the effects of non-traumatic brain injuries, like stroke. Estimates indicate that 5.3 million Americans live with brain injury-related disabilities at a cost exceeding $82 billion annually.
“People living with brain injuries want the same things we all want – a good job, someone to love, a comfortable home, and fun in their lives,” commented Susan H. Connors, President and CEO of the Brain Injury Association of America. “They want to be defined by who they are as people, not by their injuries.”
The Not Alone campaign provides a platform for educating the general public about the incidence of brain injury and the needs of people with brain injuries and their families. The campaign also lends itself to outreach to de-stigmatize the injury, empower those who have survived, and promote the many types of support that are available. Information on Brain Injury Awareness Month, including educational material and downloadable collateral, is available at biausa.org/NotAlone.
The Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, co-chaired by Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.) and Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), has designated March 22, 2017, as Brain Injury Awareness Day on Capitol Hill. This day provides an opportunity for advocates from around the country to network and discuss key issues surrounding brain injury. Additional information can be found at biausa.org/Awareness2017.