Reversing Brain Trauma

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

 

If you are familiar with competitive sports then you know that TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) is real. TBI ranges from a mild concussion after colliding with a teammate to something severe, such as a blow to the head when you are slammed into something with great force. These jolts to the cranium can lead to permanent brain injury and even death. Now, there is hope for traumatic brain injury patients.

As the mother of an avid hockey player, I have witnessed multiple head traumas at the rink so I was pleased when I heard about the recent discovery by scientists at the University of California in San Francisco. If you haven’t already heard the news, a team of researchers found that a new experimental drug could restore normal brain function in mice following two types of TBI’s.

Until now, medical experts thought there was no way to reverse cognitive decline and memory loss for those with traumatic brain injury. As for surgery, well that has to be carried out within hours of an injury to be effective. However, the University of California research team gave mice a compound and those mice developed memory capabilities similar to mice that never had brain injuries.

The drug that was administered during the study is called ISRIB and is pronounced, “iz-rib”. It was actually discovered back in 2013 by a biochemistry professor at UCSF. Doctor Peter Walter calls the findings with the mice “extraordinary”. He recently stated the following: “We think that ISRIB may uncover an untapped reservoir in the brain that allows damaged memory circuits to be repaired.”

What is particularly remarkable about the discovery is that in one phase of the study, the researchers waited until several weeks after the mice sustained the injury before administering the drug. Co-author of the study, Susanna Rosi indicated that animals with these types of brain injuries normally never learn well again, yet the drug ISRIB could restore ability to form memories even when giving the drug was delayed for four weeks after the injury; something that was considered impossible before.

While more research is needed before human studies can be conducted, the researchers have publicly stated that they have “high hopes” that the drug ISRIB can one day help those who have suffered brain injuries.

According to the U.S National Library of Medicine concussions account for up to 14 percent of hockey injuries at all levels of the sport. While prevention should be the name of the game, we all know that every season there will be players of various ages that will experience head trauma, which means we must support the advancement of research, like the work being done at the University of California in San Francisco.