The Promise of An Effective Drug Treatment for TBI
Researchers at the Henry Ford Neuroscience Institute, a leading neuroscience research facility, recently announced the results of research showing that the only drug currently approved to treat the crippling effects of stroke shows promise, when administered as a nasal spray, to help heal the effects of less severe forms of traumatic brain injury. This is exciting news, since researchers have been struggling unsuccessfully for years to find an effective drug treatment for TBI. The research results are based on animal studies, so further work will be needed to determine the best dose and window for administration in humans.
The results are published in the latest issue of the Public Library of Science’s peer-reviewed journal, PLOS ONE. [Meng Y, Chopp M, Zhang Y, Liu Z, An A, et al. (2014) Subacute Intranasal Administration of Tissue Plasminogen Activator Promotes Neuroplasticity and Improves Functional Recovery following Traumatic Brain Injury in Rats. PLOS ONE 9(9): e106238. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106238]
It has been discovered that the central nervous system is indeed capable of regeneration
As the authors of the study report, until recently, it was believed that once the brain was damaged, there was little, if any, capability for regeneration of axons and formation of new synapses. However, it has been discovered that the central nervous system (CNS) is indeed capable of significant (though limited) plasticity and regeneration that may contribute to spontaneous functional recovery and can be pharmacologically or otherwise enhanced.
The stroke drug used in the study was “recombinant human tissue plasminogen activator” (tPA). It has been known for some time that tPA, given intravenously within 4-5 hours, can reduce stroke damage. A disadvantage of intravenous administration is that it can have harmful side effects such as swelling of the brain and hemorrhage. The recent study administered the tPA as a nasal spray subacutely – more than 7 days following a TBI. The researcher found that it significantly improved cognitive and sensorimotor recovery over a control group. The evidence also indicated that the tPA promoted neuroplasticity, including increased brain neurogenesis and axonal sprouting.
Once again, the recent increases in funding, research and attention to TBI continue to yield promise for a better future for TBI victims.