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Preclinical trials provide hope for brain injury recovery

Tuesday February 25th, 2020

Resetting immune cells could help to treat people with traumatic brain injury, a new study has found.

The preclinical research in mice also established that the impact of TBI on brain degeneration may be modifiable sometime after the injury is sustained.

The findings from the collaborative research, involving scientists from Trinity College Dublin and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, USA, are published today (24 February 2020) in the Journal of Neuroscience.

When triggered by trauma, microglia morph into an inflammatory state, which helps to protect the brain.

However, long-term inflammation after TBI can contribute to neurological degeneration and cognitive declines, similar to those observed in TBI-associated neurodegenerative diseases.

In this study, the research team found suppressing chronic inflammation, even months after the injury, could provide a new treatment for TBI.

One month after a TBI, the team inhibited a receptor that microglia need to survive, which killed 95% of the mice microglia cells. However, the cells bounced back to normal levels once the inhibition ended.

The inhibition was stopped after one week and the mice were allowed to recover for a few months. The researchers then discovered that the inhibition “reset” the mice's microglia and the new cells were in a more normal, less inflammatory state.

Those mice recovered better than the mice that did not receive treatment, and also demonstrated less brain damage, fewer neuron deaths, and better motor and cognitive performance.

Dr David Loane, research assistant professor in Trinity's School of Biochemistry and Immunology, said: "These preclinical studies suggest that the consequences of TBI on brain degeneration and related neurological impairment may be modifiable quite a long time after injury by targeting inflammation pathways, which is a finding at odds with widely accepted views about head injury.

"The exciting thing is the possibility that we may one day be able to minimise brain degeneration and neurological impairment in people who have suffered a TBI. It will of course always be incredibly important to act quickly whenever someone suffers a TBI, but our findings suggest targeting inflammation pathways further down the treatment line may make a major difference to long-term brain health and recovery."

Henry et al. Microglial Depletion With CSF1R Inhibitor During Chronic Phase of Experimental Traumatic Brain Injury Reduces Neurodegeneration and Neurological Deficits. Journal of Neuroscience 24 February 2020.

Tags: A&E | Brain & Neurology | Europe | North America

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