With the rise in awareness among professional athletes and concussions over the past decade, the issue of traumatic brain injury is becoming increasingly prevalent in American culture. While high-profile stories continue to make headlines, such as the NFL players reaching a settlement in a brain injury lawsuit against the league that was worth three quarters of a billion dollars, the long-term, permanent effects of concussions and traumatic brain injury affect a broad spectrum of regular Americans, including soldiers, motorists, and those who work in dangerous conditions, such as construction. According to the CDC, approximately 50,000 Americans die every year from brain trauma alone, and nearly 300,000 are hospitalized for a nonfatal brain injury. Among these numbers, many of those survive a brain injury go on to have permanent side-effects from the brain damage.
However, a Texas-based researcher has begun to make significant headway in curtailing the long-term, permanent effects of traumatic injury by taking a completely different approach to treatment. Dr. James Lechleiter of the UT Health Science Center San Antonio recently explained in an interview on Texas Public radio that, “One of the greatest injuries after a trauma is actually increased swelling — brain edema,” told Texas Public Radio. “And so it turns out that the astrocyte is a very important cell type to control that cell swelling.”
Dr. Lechleiter’s approach is to not only treat the short-term injury and side-effects associated with a concussion or brain injury, but also to develop his patented class of compounds that designed to stimulate astrocytes into functioning at a higher capacity as a medium- to long-range approach to treating the swelling that accompanies a traumatic brain injury. this approach would assist in protecting healthy neurons in the wake of a brain injury, thus reducing or even neutralizing additional brain function that leads to disability and a loss of quality of life.
Brain cells cannot be restored. However, Dr. Lechleiter’s research has revealed that “astrocytes appear to stem further injury when administered quickly after a trauma, according to a press release. In order to further ascertain the efficacy of astrocytes therapy in traumatic brain injury, a series of clinical trials have been scheduled. If the next round of testing reveals positive results, this new treatment approach could greatly improve the outcome of traumatic brain injury for a wide range of patients.