Link found between head injury and neurological and psychiatric disorders

Scientists from the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) have published research in EBioMedicine, a journal published by Cell and The Lancet, identifying why a head injury can increase the risk of developing neurological and psychiatric disorders. 

They have found evidence that brain injury can cause damage to master genes. These master genes control hundreds of other genes linked to Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, stroke, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, depression, schizophrenia and other disorders. A summary of the research by Science Daily explains this “can happen in a couple of ways. One is that the injury can ultimately lead the genes to produce proteins of irregular forms. Another is to change the number of expressed copies of a gene in each cell. Either change can prevent a gene from working properly. If a gene turns into the wrong form of protein, it could lead to Alzheimer's disease, for example.” "Very little is known about how people with brain trauma -- like football players and soldiers -- develop neurological disorders later in life," said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery and of integrative biology and physiology, and co-senior author of the new study. "We hope to learn much more about how this occurs." The researchers studied 20 rats that they trained to escape from a maze. After giving half the rats a fluid that would induce a concussion-like brain injury, they found that they took 25% longer to escape the maze than the uninjured rats.    By analysing genes from both groups of rats, the scientists were able to see how the genes of the injured rats had changed in response to the brain injury. They also discovered that more than 100 affected rat genes have human counterparts associated with neurological and psychiatric disorders. Their findings present the “possibility that scientists could develop a gene-based blood test to determine whether a brain injury has occurred, and that measuring some of those genes could help doctors predict whether a person is likely to develop Alzheimer's or other disorders. The research could also lead to a better way to diagnose mild traumatic brain injury.” These findings could also help pave the way for better medical treatment of brain diseases, including the ability to “re-modify damaged genes to reduce the risk for diseases” and “identify chemical compounds and foods that fight disease by repairing those genes.”
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