Rethinking Nerve Damage in a Brain Injury

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November 01, 2019
Edward Smith

Nerve Damage After a Brain Injury

Recently, a research article published by a New York-based research laboratory is causing doctors and scientists to question whether or not nerve damage is the source of symptoms stemming from a traumatic brain injury. For years, the hypothesis surrounding TBIs has been that trauma to the skull causes damage to the nerves. Because nerves do not regenerate like other bodily tissues, doctors have assumed that this damage leads to the motor and sensory symptoms that patients experience. Now, a research paper is showing that the symptoms might actually be caused by damage to the blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the brain cells.

If this new revelation proves to be linked to the symptoms and disabilities following a TBI, it might influence the way future drugs and treatments are developed for injury treatment. Therefore, it is crucial for doctors and patients alike to pay attention to the findings from a research article.

The Design of the Research Study

A team of scientists working at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York conducted a study on post-mortem brain tissues. This study used a unique imaging technique to analyze the neurological tissue in a detailed way. This imaging modality is called a neurohistological pipeline. The neurohistological pipeline is unique because prior studies typically used an MRI scan. Even though an MRI scanner can produce a high-resolution image, it is still limited in its ability to differentiate nerve and blood vessel tissues in a post-mortem capacity.

This is what sets the neurohistological pipeline apart. Using this technique, researchers were able to assemble, visualize, and label individualized slices of brain tissue. This provides researchers with a close-up, detailed, and unprecedented view of the brain tissue itself. When the images produced using this technique are combined with the results of MRI scans, valuable new information was discovered.

Analyzing Nerve Damage Versus Blood Vessel Injury

The researchers focused on areas of the brain where evidence of damage was demonstrated on the MRI. These typically appear as dark spots. Then, after isolating this damage using brain slices, the researchers used specialized stains to differentiate damaged cells. Myelin stains were used to light up nerve damage, while iron stains were used to highlight blood vessel damage. The researchers found that iron stains highlighted damaged areas more often than myelin stains.

As a result, the researchers concluded that blood vessel injury is distinct from nerve damage following a head injury. The researchers believe that this is evidence of microbleeds that might be missed on an MRI scan or confused with nerve damage. The researchers believe that these results stand in contrast to the generally accepted hypothesis that nerve damage is the main cause of disabilities following a TBI. While nerve damage is still present, blood vessel injury might be present to an even greater extent. This might open a new frontier for those who study traumatic brain injuries.

Future Directions in TBI Research

The researchers believe that the locations of these microbleeds can be used to predict complications and long-term disabilities in individuals who have suffered a brain injury. If blood vessel damage can be localized on a brain scan, doctors might be able to predict what type of complications will develop in the future. More research studies are needed to find a way to perform these specialized scans and stains on a living brain, as this study was performed on post-mortem neurological tissue.

Finally, the researchers believe that future drugs developed for TBI treatment purposes may focus on vascular injury. While prior medications have focused on nerve damage, this study shows that vascular injury also plays a critical role following a blunt-force impact. Therefore, biotech and pharmaceutical companies may focus future efforts on developing drugs and treatments for blood vessel damage. This provides hope to the many people who suffer from a TBI every year.

San Francisco Brain Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a San Francisco Brain Injury Lawyer. This research paper shows that the cause of brain injuries might be due to more than just nerve damage. Anyone who has suffered a brain injury due to the negligence of another person or entity should contact our injury lawyers at (800) 404-5400 and/or (916) 921-6400 to receive free, friendly legal guidance and advice.

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Citation of Photo: The picture used at the beginning of this article was located first on Pixabay & has been used here with the guidance of the Creative Commons License.

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