A newly published study explains that a system of waste removal unique to the brain can be damaged by traumatic brain injury (TBI) and leave the victim more susceptible to degenerative brain disease and premature death.
It is well-understood that a serious TBI can eventually lead to degenerative brain disease. But a study in the Journal of Neuroscience explains for the first time that the increased risk is caused by a TBI’s impact on a cleansing system in the brain that was identified in 2012.
A blow to the head or a penetrating brain injury disrupts the function of “the brain’s waste removal system,” a news release from the University of Rochester Medical Center states. This allows toxic proteins to accumulate in the brain, “setting the stage for the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.”
Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., an author of both studies and the co-director of the University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine, says the newer study “shows that these injuries set into motion a cascading series of events that impair the brain’s ability to clear waste, allowing proteins like tau to spread throughout the brain and eventually reach toxic levels.”
Changes in Damaged Brains Similar to Those in Aging Brains
Because a complex system of molecular gateways known as the blood-brain barrier essentially closes the brain off from the rest of the body, the body’s normal waste removal system does not extend to the brain, the news release states.
This failure of the cleansing glymphatic system may also be a reason older people’s brains are more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to the release.
“It’s striking that the same changes that we see in the aging brain are mirrored in the young brain after traumatic brain injury,” Jeffrey Iliff, Ph.D., a co-author of both studies, states. “It suggests that these events may be the common link to neurodegeneration, between what happens in the elderly and what happens after brain trauma.”
Studies Reinforce Importance of Medical and Legal Help for TBI Victims
As they add to the knowledge we have about TBI, these studies also provide more evidence that suffering even a “mild” TBI, or concussion, is cause for concern.
Any time someone suffers a head wound or a blow to the head it is important to obtain medical help for them, especially if they lose consciousness or are confused for more than a moment. It is also important to document the injury from the start by establishing a record of medical care, in case a legal claim grows out of the injury.
Many TBIs occur in car accidents or workplace accidents that were someone else’s fault. A person who has been significantly injured will have medical bills and potentially face a lifetime of these expenses.
At Powers & Santola, LLP, we help TBI victims to recover compensation to assist with the costs of medical care and other losses. If you or a loved one has suffered a serious TBI in an accident caused by another person, contact us for a free review of your case.