A team of University of Arkansas and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) researchers recently determined the protein responsible for the fluid swelling that occurs in the brain during mild traumatic brain injuries, or concussions.
“Our study found that mild traumatic brain
injury resulted in increased expression of a protein called aquaporin-4, which
caused a massive cellular influx of fluid, leading to increased astrocyte cell
volume and injury,” University of Arkansas Assistant Professor of
Biomedical Engineering Kartik Balachandran said. “We then worked with a drug called Acetazolamide. Our results showed that Acetazolamide minimized cell swelling
and injury, suggesting a therapeutic role for this drug in reducing the
detrimental effects of concussions.”
Using a benchtop bioreactor, the
researchers examined astrocyte cells and saw that aquaporin-4 was more
expressed following mild traumatic brain injuries, leading to a cellular influx
of fluid and swelling of the astrocyte cells. This swelling, or edema, is one
of the leading causes of death in patients with concussions. The researchers
also found that pre-treating cells with an existing drug currently in use to
treat epilepsy and altitude sickness can reduce the expression of aquaportin-4.
“This study demonstrates the collaborative
neuro-engineering efforts that are contributing to both diagnostic and
therapeutic methods for addressing traumatic brain injury,” University of
Arkansas Department of Biomedical Engineering Chair Raj Rao said.
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