SAN DIEGO - Douglas Smith, MD, director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair and professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, presented findings on the molecular mechanism at play in mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), commonly known as concussions, at the 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in San Diego this week.
Although mTBI affects over 1 million people each year in the United States, it is generally ignored as a major health issue. However, this “mild” form of injury induces persisting neurological and cognitive problems in many of these patients, exacting an enormous emotional and financial toll on society.
Despite the prevalence and impact of mTBI, little is known about how mTBI affects nerve cells and connections in the brain, and therefore clinical outcomes after injury. Smith and colleagues have begun to amass data from human and animal studies on mTBI at 2-4 days after injury using advanced neuroimaging techniques. They have found distinct changes throughout the white matter in the brain. Also, protein markers of brain pathology were identified after mTBI in the blood of mTBI patients.
Smith and his team propose a potential molecular mechanism to explain their findings. Specifically, they found that the stretching and disconnecting of nerve-cell axons after mTBI induces problems in the sodium channels found on the surface of neurons.
"This is not inconsequential," says Smith. "Indeed, the observation that brain pathology can be detected after a concussion calls for much more extensive efforts to prevent, diagnose, and treat mild traumatic brain injury."
Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.3 billion enterprise.
The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2013 fiscal year.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.
Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2013, Penn Medicine provided $814 million to benefit our community.