Thursday, July 29, 2010

Good timing...for an article on brain injury

So, I recently defended my thesis which centered around the research I have done examining the neuroprotective effects of estrogen synthesis and transforming growth factor proteins following traumatic brain injury.  As part of the public lecture I mentioned how brain injury is a severe problem for the human race, 1. because we put ourselves into many precarious situations where severe brain injuries can occur (like driving cars and motorcycles at high speeds, or playing full contact sports, or using nail guns, regular guns, and other potentially harmful technologies), and 2. because our brains are not very good at repairing themselves (unlike some other tissues in the body like our bones for example... a few weeks in a cast, and they're all healed, but not so with a brain injury that can result in a permanent loss of tissue and possible losses of behavioral function for the rest of one's life).  It is for these reasons that traumatic brain injury is the number one cause of death and disability worldwide, and a leading cause of death and, for those who survive, long term disability here in the United States.  What I did not address in my talk were the third and fourth reasons why brain injury poses such a problem for us, and those are... 3. research for traumatic brain injury gets less funding than many other areas of biomedical research, and 4. clinically, brain injuries have been lumped together as if they were all the same thing, differentiated only by the severity of the coma (or loss of consciousness and other factors on the Glascow Coma Scale) rather than by other important factors such as location of the injury, age of the patient, time between injury and treatment, injury type (concussive vs. penetrating), etc. etc.  Luckily, it seems like these last two factors are being addressed, and this excellent article over at "The Scientist" provides a wonderful overview for anyone who might be interested in learning more about traumatic brain injuries, how they are diagnosed and treated (or rather not really treated), and the promise that another steroid hormone, progesterone, may hold for finally having a successful clinical treatment for brain injuries.  Check it out.

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