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Brain disease link to injury

Wednesday August 1st, 2018

Researchers unveil new findings today about how brain trauma may trigger degenerative disease.

Dr Elisa Zanier of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research of Milan, Italy, and colleagues analysed brain samples from patients who survived for a year or more after a single, severe traumatic brain injury.

This showed evidence of "much more widespread deposits of abnormal tau proteins in brain injured patients than in normal control brains," the researchers report. Their findings appear in the journal Brain today (1 August).

The team also looked at the same type of abnormal tau in injured mice, and found that it progressively spread from the site of injury to involve remote brain regions. They explain that this progressive spread of tau "was reminiscent of the spreading of prions, the infectious proteins more commonly associated with diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)".

Dr Zanier says: "This observation that a single brain trauma is associated with widespread tau deposition in humans and to the formation of a self-propagating form of tau in a relevant animal model provides the first evidence for how a mechanical brain injury might evolve into chronic degenerative brain disease, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy."

She adds: "Traumatic brain injury is a leading cause of death and disability in young adults. Moreover, even in milder cases, it represents a risk factor for dementia, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Understanding the mechanism linking an acute mechanical event to a progressive, degenerative brain disease would help the development of new therapies."

The researchers suggest that blocking tau propagation may have therapeutic effects.

Zanier, E. R. et al. Induction of a transmissible tau pathology by traumatic brain injury. Brain 1 August 2018; doi: 10.1093/brain/awy193

https://academic.oup.com/brain/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/brain/awy193

Tags: A&E | Brain & Neurology | Europe

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