Autoimmune response may be behind neural degeneration

New York residents who have sustained a brain injury and neuroscience aficionados alike may be interested in findings recently published by the Cleveland Clinic and University of Rochester Medical Center that may yield new treatment options as well as a shift in thinking regarding brain injuries. The prevalent thinking up until now has held that conditions such as a traumatic brain injury are the inevitable result of repeated physical trauma to the brain itself, but the new research indicates that an autoimmune response gone haywire may be the culprit behind brain degeneration exhibited by those who have sustained repeated concussions.

Nearly 70 college football players from New York and Ohio participated in the study, and a group of 10 additional players from the University of Rochester received diffusion tensor scans, similar to MRIs but more advanced, in addition to the standard cognitive and blood tests all participants received at each phase of the study. The blood draws were to measure the respective levels of a protein known as S100B, a biomarker for traumatic brain injury, which enters the bloodstream when the blood brain barrier between the brain and bloodstream opens.

The research found that S100B was present in the athletes' bloodstreams even when none of them sustained a concussion, indicating that minor blows can open the blood-brain barrier; further, the protein was found to inhabit dendric cells, which activate autoimmune responses. Apparently, as S100B enters the bloodstream, it triggers an autoimmune response in which the body creates antibodies that in turn attack the brain cells, causing degeneration and other symptoms of brain trauma. Consequently, the greater the level of the protein in the blood, the greater the number of blows each player sustained. Cognitive tests and blood draws confirmed these correlations as did the advanced brain scans.

These findings may someday yield effective treatments, such as vaccines to regulate S100B levels, for individuals who have sustained a traumatic brain injury. In the meantime, however, rehabilitation and medical care for brain injuries can be extremely costly and take months or even years. If the injury was caused by another party, a skilled Woodbridge personal injury lawyer can assist with filing a claim to secure compensation for these expenses.