Nav: Home

Stimulating neurons could protect against brain damage, research shows

October 04, 2016

A breakthrough in understanding how brain damage spreads - and how it could potentially be limited - has been made through a collaboration between neuroscientists and engineers at the Universities of Dundee and Strathclyde.

They have uncovered a previously unknown mechanism in the brain that allows networks of neurons to protect against the kind of spreading secondary damage seen in cases of strokes and traumatic brain injuries.

"If this network activity could be triggered clinically as soon as possible then major brain damage could be minimised and recovery periods shortened," said Dr Christopher Connolly, Reader in Neurobiology in the University of Dundee's School of Medicine.

"Although this is basic laboratory research, it does now re-open the door to the possibility of stopping ongoing brain damage.

"Slow acting neuroprotection is well known but approaches to induce protection require at least 24 hours notice to be effective. This is of no practical use in a clinical emergency situation such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury, so current treatment options are limited to aiding the recovery processes.

"We have identified that neuronal networks react to an insult by sending rapid - in minutes - warning signals in an attempt to protect against the toxicity that causes brain damage. If that could be recruited clinically then it would give us a tool to deploy quickly in cases where brain damage was a risk.

""Where we can't protect neurons quickly, we can recruit the help of surrounding neurons to do this for us. It is a case of `If you need a job done quickly, ask the expert' and in this instance the experts are the neurons themselves."

Laboratory-based modelling also showed that the rapid use of benzodiazepines (Valium) appeared to mimic the protection offered by the neuron networks.

"This is something we certainly need to test further but it does suggest the possibility of an effective and immediate pharmacological treatment for stroke," said Dr Connolly.

Dr Connolly worked on the project with Dr Michele Zagnoni, Senior Lecturer in Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde.

Dr Zagnoni said, "Using microfluidic technology, we were able to produce in-vitro neuronal networks to investigate spreading toxicity in the brain, which is the cause of brain damage even after an initial trauma.

"Through this process we were able to demonstrate how the spread of this toxicity is driven. In doing that we also uncovered a previously unknown, fast acting, neuroprotective signalling mechanism.

"This mechanism utilises the innate capacity of the surrounding neuronal networks (grown in the laboratory) to provide protection against the spreading toxicity. By stimulating that network, then theoretically we could limit the spread of brain damage. That requires further work, but it is an exciting and important possibility."

The results of the research are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The project examined the process known as acute secondary neuronal cell death, which is seen in neurodegenerative disease, cerebral ischemia (stroke) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) and drives spreading neurotoxicity into surrounding, undamaged, brain areas.
-end-


University of Strathclyde

Related Neurons Articles:

New tool to identify and control neurons
One of the big challenges in the Neuroscience field is to understand how connections and communications trigger our behavior.
Neurons that regenerate, neurons that die
In a new study published in Neuron, investigators report on a transcription factor that they have found that can help certain neurons regenerate, while simultaneously killing others.
How neurons use crowdsourcing to make decisions
When many individual neurons collect data, how do they reach a unanimous decision?
Neurons can learn temporal patterns
Individual neurons can learn not only single responses to a particular signal, but also a series of reactions at precisely timed intervals.
A turbo engine for tracing neurons
Putting a turbo engine into an old car gives it an entirely new life -- suddenly it can go further, faster.
Brain neurons help keep track of time
Turning the theory of how the human brain perceives time on its head, a novel analysis in mice reveals that dopamine neuron activity plays a key role in judgment of time, slowing down the internal clock.
During infancy, neurons are still finding their places
Researchers have identified a large population of previously unrecognized young neurons that migrate in the human brain during the first few months of life, contributing to the expansion of the frontal lobe, a region important for social behavior and executive function.
How many types of neurons are there in the brain?
For decades, scientists have struggled to develop a comprehensive census of cell types in the brain.
Molecular body guards for neurons
In the brain, patterns of neural activity are perfectly balanced.
Engineering researchers use laser to 'weld' neurons
University of Alberta researchers have developed a method of connecting neurons, using ultrashort laser pulses -- a breakthrough technique that opens the door to new medical research and treatment opportunities.

Related Neurons Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#529 Do You Really Want to Find Out Who's Your Daddy?
At least some of you by now have probably spit into a tube and mailed it off to find out who your closest relatives are, where you might be from, and what terrible diseases might await you. But what exactly did you find out? And what did you give away? In this live panel at Awesome Con we bring in science writer Tina Saey to talk about all her DNA testing, and bioethicist Debra Mathews, to determine whether Tina should have done it at all. Related links: What FamilyTreeDNA sharing genetic data with police means for you Crime solvers embraced...