A new study has found that inflammation after traumatic brain injury is caused by a protein produced by the liver. What is more, this protein can be blocked by a drug used to treat high blood pressure.
After traumatic brain injury (TBI), there is an inflammatory response in the blood and the body’s organs – particularly the liver.
Until now there has been no way to reduce the damage caused by this inflammation.
Now, thanks to this latest study from Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) in Washington, DC, the processes are better understood, leading the way to more effective treatments for TBI.
The study found that TBI results in a response from the liver that increases the production of a protein that increases inflammation in the brain by up to 1,000-fold.
It is this inflammation that leads to nerve cell death and reduced blood flow and damage, so reducing inflammation would have significant health benefits to those injured in this way.
- 1.7 million people in the US sustain a TBI every year, of whom 52,000 die and 275,000 are hospitalized
- About 75% of TBIs each year in the US are concussions or other forms of mild traumatic brain injury
- Those who are most likely to sustain a TBI are aged 0-4, 15-19 or 65 and over.
In tests using mice, small doses of the hypertension drug telmisartan were found to block production of one of the molecules in the protein’s biological pathway, which in turn led to a considerable reduction in the inflammation.
According to the American College of Cardiology, telmisartan “keeps blood vessels from narrowing, which lowers blood pressure and improves blood flow.”
“This study established a connection between the peripheral regions and the brain, highlighting the importance of regulating the peripheral damage when trying to mitigate the consequences of brain injury,” says lead researcher Prof. Sonia Villapol, of GUMC.
In earlier research, the same team found that telmisartan and another hypertension drug, candesartan, had beneficial effects in mice with TBI several hours after injury.
Given the time that it takes to get a person from an accident site to treatment in an emergency room, it is valuable for clinicians to know that, even 6 hours after TBI, these drugs could produce benefits by “decreasing brain inflammation, neuronal death, bleeding and swelling in the brain.”
Prof. Villapol says:
“To date, treatment of TBI consists of supportive care and rehabilitation because there has been no way to reduce the inflammatory damage that occurs right after head injury trauma and continuously thereafter. And our findings suggest a treatment for both the brain and body would play a critical role in this chronic inflammatory response.”
The research team says this study paves the way for clinical trials of these drugs in TBI patients.
In 2012, Medical News Today reported that a drug called clazosentan may block the harmful effects of TBI.
Written by Jonathan Vernon