The scientists hope to convert the discovery into a simple and effective treatment for use in emergency rooms or by first responders shortly after a TBI has occurred in military and civilian settings. Currently, no treatment options exist for TBI patients.
“After a traumatic brain injury, about 40% of mice experience a seizure within one week, and many continue to experience seizures for years, leading to epilepsy disease,” said study senior author Mark S. Shapiro, Ph.D., professor of cellular and integrative physiology at UT Health San Antonio. “This closely parallels what happens in human patients, followed by cognitive dysfunction and changes in emotional state.”
After a TBI, dangerous inflammation occurs throughout the brain, causing nerve cells to die and the blood-brain barrier, which is critical to maintaining normal brain function, to break down, said lead author Fabio A. Vigil, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Shapiro’s lab.
Preventing abnormal electrical activity
The novel therapy increases the activity of “M-type” KCNQ potassium ion channels, which are proteins that can halt uncontrolled electrical currents in nerve cells. Abnormal currents begin immediately after a TBI, even before a seizure has a chance to occur, and the therapy aims to counteract this, thus nipping in the bud this destructive chain of events.
“No seizures were observed in the treated mice whatsoever,” Dr. Vigil said.