In the long battle against neurodegenerative diseases, researchers are continually struggling with advances and recently found some success: an antibody discovered to battle brain injury and Alzheimer’s. A newly discovered therapy might early on prevent long term consequences of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
Each year 2.5 million people are sent to emergency rooms suffering from TBI and 22,000 die in result. There are also 5.3 million people currently living in America who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and no cure has been found yet.
The link between TBI and Alzheimer or CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) has been known for a long time, but no true manner of preventing or curing has been available. However, recent studies found the precise correlation and an antibody to destroy the cause.
TBI can be caused by a severe, strong blasts, like explosions or by repeated blows to the head. Both types are respectively found in soldiers, and confirmed by the fact that 20% of the troops sent in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from TBI, or in professional athletes regularly participating in contact sports.
Researchers have discovered that a malignant form of the tau protein, which is found in high levels in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, can appear as early as 12 hour after a person suffers from a traumatic brain injury. The tau protein can be split in two isoforms: trans P-tau, which give neurons their shape and help with brain functioning, and cis P-tau, which is disease causing.
Due to a study by Xiao Zhen Zhou, MD, researchers were able to use a previously created antibody to distinguish between the two isoforms. One was vital to normal brain function, while the other led to cell death within the part of the brain associated with memories.
They were able to develop an antibody that distinguishes between the two and destroy the harmful cis P-tau without affecting the useful trasn P-tau. The presence of cis P-tau was confirmed in the brains of people who have died from TBI. If the TBI does not cause death, the malignant protein gradually progresses through the brain along the years to the point where it develops into neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or CTE.
The experiment for the antibody was condoned on mice. Researchers simulated injuries and circumstances that soldiers or professional athletes might go through, studying the levels of tau protein and discovered that they are directly proportional to the severity and frequency of the TBI.
After treatments with the antibody, after two weeks, the mice showed improvement and levels of the cis P-tau drastically lowered, essentially preventing and halting cell death to a stop. The results proved that proper treatment after a traumatic brain injury can prevent neurons from dying and, thus, stopping neurodegenerative diseases from properly forming.
While the medical community is waiting for the antibody to go through human trials, the potential is promising. It could help prevent destructive diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, from ever forming in lieu of a traumatic brain injury and improve the future lives of many.