WASHINGTON, D.C. A class of Alzheimer's disease drugs currently studied in clinical trials appears to reduce damage caused by traumatic brain injury in animals, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center report in an upcoming advance online publication of Nature Medicine.
They say the results suggest that this class of drugs could potentially do something no other drug has been able to do-- prevent the long-term and continuing damage that often follows a serious injury to the brain.
That is because the agents, known as gamma secretase inhibitors, are designed to prevent build-up of amyloid, a toxic peptide found in the brain. This peptide clogs the brains of Alzheimer's patients but it is has also been found in people who have died from traumatic brain injury, says the study's lead author, neuroscientist Mark Burns, PhD, an assistant professor at GUMC.
"No one knows why it occurs, but abnormal amounts of amyloid plaque have been found during an autopsy in about a third of brain injury victims, some of whom were children who would ordinarily never have had these deposits," says Burns. "Remarkably, these deposits may occur in less than one day after injury."
There is another connection between traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer's disease, he says it is known that people who suffered a brain injury had a 400 percent increased risk of developing the disorder.
"But up until now, these were just interesting observations," Burns says. "In this study we show that the same pathways activated chronically in Alzheimer's disease are activated acutely in traumatic brain injury and that they appear to play a very important role in secondary injury."
Severe brain injury usually produces an immediate "necrotic" death of nerve cells, but this damage is often followed by a secondary wave of injury that can last weeks, months, and even years, Burns says. This damage comes from apoptosis, which is a differ
|Contact: Karen Mallet|
Georgetown University Medical Center