New research out of the University of California San Francisco suggests that we may soon be able to reverse some of the adverse side effects of traumatic brain injuries.
For their study, researchers analyzed spatial memory in mice who were subjected to traumatic brain injuries. To do this, researchers anesthesized a group of mice and induced brain trauma similar to what one might expect a human to experience during a car accident. After the TBIs were induced, mice were placed in a water maze with cues to direct them towards a hidden resting pattern. A control group of mice was also placed in the maze.
What researchers found is that while both groups struggled to find the hidden platform at the outset, the healthy control group eventually developed memory patterns and were able to navigate the maze much quicker on subsequent trials. Mice with TBIs did not show improvement in their ability to navigate the maze any quicker after numerous trial runs.
ISRIB Injections Prove Useful
However, the study didn’t end there. Researchers then injected mice in the TBI group with a drug simply known as ISRIB for three days in a row, and they were then re-introduced to the maze. To the researchers’ amazement, the injured mice were able to navigate the maze as quickly as the control group of mice up to a week later.
“We kept replicating experiments, thinking maybe something went wrong,” said study author Susanna Rosi, a professor of physical therapy and rehabilitation services and neurological surgery at UCSF. To confirm their results, researchers conducted a second study where mice were again artificially given a TBI in a different location of the brain and asked to complete a more difficult maze. The same results were seen. Uninjured mice showed improvement, while mice in the TBI group did not, until they were given found daily rounds of ISRIB. Then, they performed as well as their uninjured counterparts. “This is the most exciting piece of work I’ve ever done, no doubt,” Rosi said.
Rosi added that ISRIB has the potential to help humans who have suffered traumatic brain injuries or other head injuries that cause memory impairment.
“ISRIB’s half-life is less than a day, and when the mice demonstrated intact memory ability a week after receiving it, we know there is only the most miniscule trace of the drug left in their bodies. We need to do much more research, but I have high hopes that this drug can bring back lost memory capacity to our patients who have suffered brain injuries.” Rosi said.
This research is extremely promising, as one person suffers a TBI every 21 seconds in this country. That adds up to more than two million people each year. Hopefully we continue to learn more about this drug and similar results can be produced in human trials in the not so distant future.