The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston recently concluded a study attempting to identify a significant piece of information missing in fully understanding the correlation between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
UTMB researchers had previously discovered elevations in a toxic form of ‘tau’ protein following traumatic brain injury that could be contributing to the occurrence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is a progressive degenerative disease found in military personnel, professional athletes, and others with multiple TBIs. The researchers wanted to know if dementia symptoms could also be caused by this protein.
To determine if this was the case, researchers isolated the protein from animals who had sustained a TBI. The protein was then injected into a test group of animals to see if any impairments would emerge. In the Journal of Neurotrauma, the group published their results- that, indeed, the second group of animals developed mental impairments consistent with those caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
According to Rakez Kayed, associate professor in the department of neurology and the Mitchell Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, the findings show that toxic tau triggers multiple symptoms of TBI and could be to blame for the heightened risk for neurodegenerative disease after a traumatic brain injury. Kayed would like to see more research performed to determine if tau could also be a feasible therapy for the impairments suffered by the brain following TBI.
Approximately 1.5 million new cases of TBI are reported every year. Traumatic brain injury occurs anytime a person sustains a sudden jolt or blow to the head. Not only can TBI cause immediate symptoms, such as headache, dizziness and confusion, but it can also lead to a heightened risk of long-term neurological effects for which there are currently no treatments.
Tau protein provides the means for cells to receive nutrients and dispose of waste. It transforms into a toxic form in some neurodegenerative diseases, however, robbing cells of their ability to receive molecular nutrients, causing them to die.
Toxic forms of tau were discovered in two different models of TBI by the UTMB team led by Kayed and Bridget Hawkins, assistant professor in the department of anesthesiology.
In another group of mice, the group injected toxic tau molecules into the hippocampus, a region of the brain instrumental to memory. The memory and thinking abilities of these mice were then tested. The injected mice experienced similar difficulties with these behavioral tests as the mice who did not receive injections. The toxic protein levels increased, however, at the injection site and the cerebellum, the region of the brain responsible for motor control. This replicated results found in a prior Alzheimer’s animal model study that discovered toxic tau molecules transmit harm to other regions of the brain from the injection site.
The team feels their discoveries are important in understanding the link between TBI and developing CTE and Alzheimer’s disease long after the initial injury. The research can also be helpful in influencing treatment for TBI and mitigating neurological difficulties later in life.
Contact Our Denver Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers
If you or someone you love has sustained a brain injury after a car accident, it is important to understand the long-term complications of your injury. You may need money to pay for medical expenses and long-term care in the future – long after your initial injury has healed. Contact a Denver TBI attorney the Gold Law Firm today for a free consultation at (303) 694-4653.