The effects of concussions can be felt long after the event, sometimes leading to severe neurodegeneration and diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or chronic traumatic encephalopathy,media New Atlas reported. To find treatments for this type of traumatic brain injury, engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found that cooling concussion cells protects them from damage and keeps them functioning properly.
“There is no effective drug treatment for concussions and other types of brain trauma,” said Christian Frank, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who led the study. We are very excited about our findings, as they may pave the way for the treatment we provide to our patients. “
Frank and his team made the breakthrough by testing brain cells in a petri dish. When brain cells are affected by trauma, one of the consequences may be to initiate biochemical pathways that drive neurodegeneration and ultimately lead to loss of cell function. The researchers set out to find ways to intervene in the process to prevent long-term damage associated with concussions. “These pathways are like triggering bad molecular switches in the brain,” Frank said. “
To reconstruct these biochemical pathways in the lab, the researchers built a network of neurons in a petri dish. They then used mechanical stimulation to damage the process of brain damage, which damaged cells in a way similar to a real concussion. The cells are then quickly cooled to different temperature ranges and times to find the best way.
For best results, the team found that cooling started within four hours of injury and remained for at least six hours, although even 30 minutes showed some advantage. Temperatures that cool down to 91.4 degrees F (33 degrees C) have the greatest protection. In this way, the team found that it could keep the associated biochemical pathways shut down and keep the cells functioning properly. Remarkably, they found that after six hours of cooling, the channel remained closed when the cells returned to their normal body temperature. “The biggest surprise was that the molecular switches were actually permanently switched off during the lab experiment, ” says Frank. “
It is not entirely clear how this method works in clinical settings. Cooling the patient’s entire body may not be a viable option, the researchers note, because of the risks associated with the heart and immune system. For now, the team hopes to further study the animals to better understand their mechanisms.
“We hope that our paper will inspire new impetus and interest to address the technical challenges of providing this treatment to patients in the future,” Frank said. For a long time, the scientific literature has not been conclusive about whether this can be successfully treated. What we showed in our study is that this is effective in terms of cell biology. Therefore, it is really worth considering how to achieve this goal in practice. “
The study was published in the journal PLOS One.