Nav: Home

Could flies help us understand brain injuries?

May 11, 2016

Each year, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These injuries occur most frequently from falling, but can also result from military combat, car accidents, contact sports or domestic abuse. Recently, physicians and researchers have become increasingly concerned that even mild cases of repetitive brain trauma could have long-term, unanticipated consequences.

Given the prevalence of these injuries, it's surprising that the genes and cellular pathways that can blunt TBI's harmfulness are relatively unknown, said Kim Finley, an associate professor at the San Diego State University Donald P. Shiley BioScience Center. A new study led by SDSU scientists and recently published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports suggests that using fruit flies as a TBI model may hold the key to identifying important genes and pathways that promote the repair of and minimize damage to the nervous system.

"Fruit flies actually have a very complex nervous system," said Finley, the study's co-lead author. "They are also an incredible model system that has been used for over 100 years for genetic studies, and more recently to understand the genes that maintain a healthy brain."

In humans, changes in mood, headaches and sleep problems are just a few of the possible symptoms associated with suffering mild traumatic brain injury. The timeline for these symptoms can vary greatly: Some people experience them immediately following injury, while others may develop problems many years after.

Finley noted that because fruit flies grow old quickly, observing them allows researchers to rapidly study the long-term consequences of traumatic brain injury.

"Traits that might take 40 years to develop in people can occur in flies within two weeks," she said.

To test whether flies can be used to model traumatic brain injuries, Finley and colleagues used an automated system to vigorously shake and traumatize thousands of fruit flies.

"Fruit flies come out of this mild trauma and appear perfectly normal," explained Eric Ratliff, an adjunct assistant professor at SDSU and the study's other co-lead author. "However, the flies quickly begin to show signs of decline, similar to problems found in people who have been exposed to head injuries."

In their study, injured fruit flies showed damage to neurons within the brain, as well as an accumulation of a protein called hyper-phosphorylated Tau, a hallmark feature of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Furthermore, injured flies also began to experience insomnia and their normal sleep patterns deteriorated. The results suggest that studying traumatic injury in fruit flies may indeed reveal genetic and cellular factors that can improve the brain's resilience to injuries.

"It's really a unique model," Finley said. "We've developed it to be reliable, inexpensive, and fast."
-end-


San Diego State University

Related Traumatic Brain Injury Articles:

Reducing dangerous swelling in traumatic brain injury
After a traumatic brain injury (TBI), the most harmful damage is caused by secondary swelling of the brain compressed inside the skull.
Blue light can help heal mild traumatic brain injury
Daily exposure to blue wavelength light each morning helps to re-entrain the circadian rhythm so that people get better, more regular sleep which was translated into improvements in cognitive function, reduced daytime sleepiness and actual brain repair.
Dealing a therapeutic counterblow to traumatic brain injury
A team of NJIT biomedical engineers are developing a therapy which shows early indications it can protect neurons and stimulate the regrowth of blood vessels in damaged tissue.
Predictors of cognitive recovery following mild to severe traumatic brain injury
Researchers have shown that higher intelligence and younger age are predictors of greater cognitive recovery 2-5 years post-mild to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Which car crashes cause traumatic brain injury?
Motor vehicle crashes are one of the most common causes of TBI-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths.
Traumatic brain injury and kids: New treatment guidelines issued
To help promote the highest standards of care, and improve the overall rates of survival and recovery following TBI, a panel of pediatric critical care, neurosurgery and other pediatric experts today issued the third edition of the Brain Trauma Foundation Guidelines for the Management of Pediatric Severe TBI.
Addressing sleep disorders after traumatic brain injury
Amsterdam, NL, December 10, 2018 - Disorders of sleep are some of the most common problems experienced by patients after traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Rutgers researchers discover possible cause for Alzheimer's and traumatic brain injury
Rutgers researchers discover a possible cause for Alzheimer's and traumatic brain injury, and the new mechanism may have also led to the discovery of an effective treatment.
Traumatic brain injury recovery via petri dish
Researchers in the University of Georgia's Regenerative Bioscience Center have succeeded in reproducing the effects of traumatic brain injury and stimulating recovery in neuron cells grown in a petri dish.
Traumatic brain injury may be associated with increased risk of suicide
An increased risk of suicide was associated with those residents of Denmark who sought medical attention for traumatic brain injury (TBI) compared with the general population without TBI in a study that used data from Danish national registers.
More Traumatic Brain Injury News and Traumatic Brain Injury Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.