Two potential treatments for traumatic brain injuries have been found to be most effective when given at different stages after the injury has occurred. Laboratory studies have confirmed that changes in brain water channels over time play a critical role in traumatic brain injury.
For his PhD at the University of Adelaide, researcher Dr. Joshua Burton tested two compounds that alter the natural flow of water activity in and out of the brain. He found that recovery from brain injury can be greatly assisted when these compounds are given at the right times.
Dr. Burton’s work could point to the potential development of new drugs as well as new approaches to preventing brain damage and death.
“One of the serious consequences of traumatic brain injury is an increase in brain moisture content and associated brain swelling, which significantly impacts patients’ neurological outcomes. This swelling can occur for days after the initial injury and is frequently life-threatening,” Dr. Burton says.
Dr. Burton has found that applying a drug that closes the water channels can inhibit initial water entry, helping to close the window of vulnerability. A second drug used later in the progression of the injury acts to enhance the water channel activity, letting superfluous moisture out when needed. “By using both of these compounds — a blocker at the early stage of injury, and an activator at the later stage — we’re able to complement the brain’s natural healing processes and maintain a reduced level of swelling,” he says.
This work builds on more than a decade of research conducted by the University of Adelaide’s Professor Andrea Yool on the water channel proteins known as “aquaporins.”
“Dr. Burton’s work is groundbreaking because it clarifies the roles of aquaporins in the brain during the short and long-term responses to traumatic head injury. This work also demonstrates for the first time that recently discovered drug-like compounds can be used in series to initially reduce water entry and then enhance water exit over time,” Professor Yool says.
University of Adelaide. (2014, October 14). Timing is key for traumatic brain injury treatment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141014094734.htm