By eliminating one type of immune cell in the brain, researchers were able to erase any evidence of inflammation following traumatic brain injury, according to a study from The Ohio State University and published in the journal GLIA.
“We used a drug to wipe out cells called microglia in mice that had experienced brain injury, and the inflammation that is a hallmark of traumatic brain injury vanished,” says Kristina Witcher, the Ohio State graduate student who led the study, which was designed to mimic the type of traumatic brain injury a person would experience after hitting his or her head with enough force to briefly lose consciousness.
“Chronic inflammation with brain injury is harmful, and in this study we were able to eliminate that inflammatory response of the immune system by targeting just one specific cell type,” states Jonathan Godbout, the study’s senior author and assistant director for basic science at Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.
“Now, we have a specific cell to aim for when looking at potential interventions to decrease the harm caused by concussions,” Godbout adds, per a media release from Ohio State University.
Though other cell types, including those that make up blood vessels, have been previously implicated in the inflammation following serious head injury, this study offers detailed proof that immune cells called microglia play a key role, comments Godbout, a professor of neuroscience who is part of Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s Neurological Institute.
The drug used in the study to eliminate the microglia from the mouse brain isn’t likely a potential treatment for brain injury in humans because it would cause too much damage to other vital functions of these cells, which make up about 10% to 15% of all brain cells, he says.
The research team also is seeking more details about the inflammatory response at different periods of time after injury.
Previous efforts to treat traumatic brain injury with anti-inflammatories have been unsuccessful in humans, Witcher notes, highlighting the need for neuroscientists to explore novel treatment approaches.
The research also uncovered an anomaly in the microglia cells in the brain after injury: They were elongated.
“For now, we don’t really know what that structure means and whether it has any functional significance, but those are questions we’d like to explore,” Witcher says.
She and Godbout also said they’re interested in understanding if some of the cells are “good guys” and others are “bad guys.”
“It’s possible that some promote inflammation and others work against it, maybe even by keeping neurons alive,” Godbout concludes.
[Source(s): Ohio State University, Science Daily]