Traumatic brain injuries are very difficult to treat, according to experts, because the brain is slow to recover from impacts and is not believed to be able to regenerate lost cells. After a traumatic brain injury occurs from an event like a car accident or a concussion sustained during a contact sport, the brain begins to swell. The swelling leads to a loss of brain cells which can result in a loss of some functions and sometimes causes a permanent disability.
Traumatic brain injuries affect about 1.7 million people every year in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that at least five million people have a long-term disability as a result of a traumatic brain injury.
For Tennessee patients who arrive at a hospital after a car accident or other event that causes a brain injury, the prognosis can be quite uncertain in the hours following the accident. However, a new study being led by Emory University is seeking to give patients a treatment option that starts right away and could help significantly reduce the damage that occurs as the brain reacts to the impact.
The treatment being tested in the Emory clinical trials uses the naturally occurring hormone progesterone, which is a reproductive hormone. Previously thought to function only in the female reproductive process and during pregnancy, progesterone is now being considered to have neuroprotective functions as well, meaning that it could help protect brain cells from further damage after a trauma.
In our next post we'll discuss the trial and more about the treatment itself.
Source: The New York Times, "A hormonal remedy for brain injuries is explored," David Tuller, June 18, 2012