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Study examines the role of inflammation in traumatic brain injuries

Although the exact mechanism is not fully understood, research indicates that suffering a traumatic brain injury – even a mild concussion – can seriously impact a person’s long term health and may even increase the risk of dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions. Though it may seem counterintuitive, the cause of these long term effects may not be the trauma itself, but rather the way in which a person’s body responds to injury. Specifically, doctors have recently begun studying the importance of inflammation in these sorts of injuries and whether it plays a role in causing long term damage.

The role of inflammation

It has long been known that trauma and some neurodegenerative diseases are accompanied by a marked inflammation response in the brain. Though inflammation is part of the body’s natural defense against damage, it can act to further exacerbate an initial injury, particularly when delicate brain tissue is involved. Researchers have yet to identify, however, truly effective therapies for combating this process.

In a recent study, researchers at the University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging examined the process by which the body controls inflammation in the brain after trauma. Researchers studied the role of a protein – known as P38a MAPK – in causing brain inflammation. This protein is known to play a role in other inflammatory disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers used mice to examine the function of P38a MAPK in trauma induced injury responses in the brain. They discovered that the protein does, in fact, play a role in controlling brain inflammation after trauma. According to the study’s authors, the relationship is fairly clear cut: the tissue of brain-injured mice lacking P38a MAPK showed significantly less damage than tissue with the protein. Though further research is needed, it appears that targeting P38a MAPK may help speed recovery and help prevent further injury in patients who have suffered a traumatic brain injury. Unfortunately, however, the development of drugs designed to inhibit the production of this protein are likely years away.

Traumatic brain injuries a serious problem

No matter the cause – be it car accident, fall or workplace injury – a traumatic brain injury can change a person’s life. Though it may not receive a great deal of media attention, the incidence of TBIs is a serious problem in the U.S.

If you have suffered a traumatic brain injury due to someone else’s negligence, contact a personal injury attorney, who can explain your legal options.

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