Navigate Up

UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
For Journalists
Senior Manager
Telephone: 412-578-9193 or 412-624-3212
Director
Telephone: 412-586-9771
Other Inquiries

Mild Blast Injury Causes Molecular Changes in Brain Akin to Alzheimer’s Disease, Pitt-Led Team Says

PITTSBURGH, April 24 – A multicenter study led by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine shows that mild traumatic brain injury after blast exposure produces inflammation, oxidative stress and gene activation patterns akin to disorders of memory processing such as Alzheimer’s disease. Their findings were recently reported in the online version of the Journal of Neurotrauma.
 
Blast-induced traumatic brain injury (TBI) has become an important issue in combat casualty care, said senior investigator Patrick Kochanek, M.D., professor and vice chair of critical care medicine and director of the Safar Center for Resuscitation Research at Pitt. In many cases of mild TBI, MRI scans and other conventional imaging technology do not show overt damage to the brain.
 
“Our research reveals that despite the lack of a lot of obvious neuronal death, there is a lot of molecular madness going on in the brain after a blast exposure,” Dr. Kochanek said. “Even subtle injuries resulted in significant alterations of brain chemistry.”
 
The research team developed a rat model to examine whether mild blast exposure in a device called a shock tube caused any changes in the brain even if there was no indication of direct cell death, such as bleeding. Brain tissues of rats exposed to blast and to a sham procedure were tested two and 24 hours after the injury.
 
Gene activity patterns, which shifted over time, resembled patterns seen in neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s, Dr. Kochanek noted. Markers of inflammation and oxidative stress, which reflects disruptions of cell signaling, were elevated, but there was no indication of energy failure that would be seen with poor tissue oxygenation.
 
“It appears that although the neurons don’t die after a mild injury, they do sustain damage,” he said. “It remains to be seen what multiple exposures, meaning repeat concussions, do to the brain over the long term.”
Co-authors include researchers from the Safar Center for Resuscitation Research and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; University of California, San Diego; ORA Inc., of Fredericksburg, Va.; Walter Reed Army Institute of ResearchDyn-FX Consulting Ltd, Amherstburg, ON; Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD; and Integrated Services Group, Inc., Potomac, MD.
 
The project was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com