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Brain Damage After Head Injury Linked To Immune System

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A treatment which blocks part of the immune system could potentially help reduce the brain damage caused by head injuries.

New findings from experiments on mice show that an immune-based treatment reduced the size of brain lesions. If these findings apply to humans, the study offers the potential to help prevent brain damage from accidents and also protect players of contact sports like rugby and boxing.

The researchers wanted to find out whether one of the reasons why blows to the head cause brain damage is because of the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier, allowing immune cells in the blood to come into contact with brain cells and destroy them.

They hypothesised that mice missing a vital immune component known as CD74 might have less brain damage from trauma, and that a treatment designed to block this component of the immune system would prevent damage.

Results of experiments on 32 mice confirmed that mice with a fully working immune system had larger brain lesions after a trauma, suggesting that the immune system is part of the reason for brain cells breaking down.

The scientists also confirmed that mice with a brain injury that received a treatment known as CAP, which stops T-cells from being activated, had smaller brain lesions after a trauma. This suggests that the treatment did reduce the damage caused by brain trauma.

The study – titled ‘Traumatic brain injury causes selective, CD74-dependent peripheral lymphocyte activation that exacerbates neurodegeneration´ – has been published in the open access journal Acta Neuropathologica Communications.