Existing drugs may help in the treatment of traumatic brain injury

Scientists in America have discovered that two drugs already in use to treat other conditions may be useful in the aftermath of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The results of the study carried out by Rutgers University in New Jersey and published in Scientific Reports found that lithium and rapamycin may help retain brain function and stop the death of nerve cells in people who have TBI. When TBI occurs, high concentrations of a chemical called glutamate are released. Glutamate has many important functions in the brain and normal levels help with memory and learning. However, too much glutamate can damage nerve cells and the brain, and has been associated with neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. Lithium is commonly used to treat bipolar disorder and depression, and rapamycin is primarily characterised by its’ ability to supress the immune system.  But the researchers found that when these drugs were added to damaged cell cultures in the laboratory, the glutamate was not able to send messages between nerve cells, preventing cell damage and death.  Reported by Science Daily, the lead author of the research Professor Bonnie Firestein explained: "Many medications now used for those suffering with traumatic brain injury focus on treating the symptoms and stopping the pain instead of protecting any further damage from occurring. We wanted to find a drug that could protect the cells and keep them from dying. "The most common traumatic brain injury that people deal with every day is concussion, which affects thousands of children each year. "Concussions are often hard to diagnose in children because they are not as vocal, which is why it is critical to find drugs that work to prevent long-term damage." Further research needs to be done to see if the laboratory results can be replicated with success in animals and humans. 
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