The U.S. Department of Defense has been funding research on treatment of brain injuries. This is in response to the increase of brain injuries our soldiers are sustaining in Iraq, where terrorists plant bombs along the roadways to explode vehicles.
Dr. Ning Zhang at a South Carolina university has devised an injectable gel that could be customized according to the particular injury being treated. One of the problems of all brain injuries is that there can so easily be a secondary injury stemming from the original injury. For example, if there is bleeding or swelling in the brain, the skull does not expand to accommodate it and that means that more brain cells are damaged.
Hospital emergency rooms take measures to prevent this whenever they receive a person with brain injury, and it is part of the standard protocol. For example, they may work to lower the person’s body temperature, constricting blood vessels and thus reducing bleeding and swelling. However, this is not always effective, or it may come too late to prevent the secondary injury.
Success With Rats
Dr. Zhang, working with rats, injected the gel to help restore a full blood supply so that brain cells could more quickly heal themselves, or donor brain cells could more effectively replace lost cells.
Then in another study, she placed immature human stem cells into the gel, along with chemicals needed for them to develop into brain cells. (Stem cells are generic cells with the ability to grow into specialized cells such as brain, blood, or muscle cells.) After about eight weeks of treatment using this gel, the rats made significant recovery.
Research on Humans Planned
Although Dr. Zhang and her team have not yet begun any work on humans, that is expected to begin within about three years. “We have seen an increase in brain injuries due to combat, but our strategy can also potentially be applied to head injuries caused by car accidents, falls and gunshot wounds,” Dr. Zhang stated. The gel could be modified for each patient, depending on what their particular needs are. For example, the gel could be made so as to block scar formation in the brain or prevent release of any toxic molecules.
Although enormous amounts of research have been done on the human brain, there is still much to learn. When the brain is injured, devastating disability or paralysis can be the result, since the brain governs our entire existence – mental, physical, and emotional. Let’s hope that research such as Dr. Zhang’s will provide physicians with more effective ways to prevent secondary brain injury and to heal the primary injury.
If you have a loved one with a brain injury through no fault of their own, we can help. Please call or email our brain injury attorneys today to schedule a free case evaluation and learn more about your legal rights and options.