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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Drug Protects Injured Brains
16 May 2005 (All day)
Neuroscientists have found a drug for traumatic brain injury that appears to work better than any current treatment. Rats that were given the drug following a concussive brain injury had a near-complete recovery, while untreated rats suffered significant brain damage.
In the days after a concussion, damaged brain tissue responds in two main ways. Neurons self-destruct in a process called apoptosis, and glial cells, some of which support and surround neurons, divide, causing inflammation and scar tissue. These processes leave a hole surrounded by a glial scar, resulting in loss of motor and cognitive function.
To find a way to prevent this damage from occurring, neuroscientist Simone Di Giovanni and others in Alan Faden's lab at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and at the Universita di Pavia in Italy used gene expression arrays to determine which genes become activated in damaged brain tissue after a concussion. They found that cell cycle genes involved in cell division set off both glial proliferation and neuronal apoptosis. The researchers then injected an experimental drug called flavopiridol, which inhibits cell cycle enzymes, into the cerebral fluid of rats 30 minutes after they were given a moderately severe concussion.
Rats that were not treated developed a large hole in their brains visible with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). But in the treated rats, there was scarcely a trace of brain damage on MRI after 4 weeks, and they performed as well as normal rats on motor and cognitive tests, while brain damaged rats did not. "This degree of protection was really remarkable. Lots of drugs have shown neural protection in similar models, but they haven't provided anywhere near this level of benefit," says Faden, whose group's report appears online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The flavopiridol treatment is a "unique and promising approach," but it's still a long way from the emergency room, cautions neurobiologist Edward Hall of the University of Kentucky in Lexington. First Faden's team needs to see how well the drug works a couple hours after injury, which is how long it might take for an injured person to reach a hospital. So far, they've treated rats at 24 hours and gotten less complete recovery; they're still working on doses, Faden says. Researchers will also need to show that flavopiridol, which was rejected as a cancer drug because of toxicity, is safe in humans as a brain treatment.