News Release
  December 11, 2013

CONTACT:

Kim Menard

215-662-6183
kim.menard@uphs.upenn.edu

Perelman School of Medicine


This release is available online at
http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2013/12/cohen/

Dietary Amino Acids Relieve Sleep Problems after Traumatic Brain Injury in Animals

PHILADELPHIA — A new study suggests a potential dietary treatment - a cocktail of key amino acids that improved sleep disturbances caused by brain injuries in mice - for millions of people affected by traumatic brain injury (TBI)—a condition that is currently untreatable. The animal TBI study, conducted by a team of sleep and brain experts including researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), appears today in Science Translational Medicine.

Every year in the U.S., an estimated 2 million people suffer a TBI, accounting for a major cause of disability across all age groups. Although 75 percent of reported TBI cases are milder forms such as concussion, even concussion may cause chronic neurological impairments, including cognitive, motor and sleep problems.

The study was co-led by CHOP neuroscientist Akiva S. Cohen, PhD, a research associate professor of Pediatrics in Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, and two experts in sleep medicine: co-senior author Allan I. Pack, MBChB, PhD, professor of Medicine and director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania; and first author Miranda M. Lim, MD, PhD, formerly at the Penn Sleep Center, and now on faculty at the Portland VA Medical Center and Oregon Health and Science University.

The team investigated the use of selected branched chain amino acids (BCAA)—precursors of the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA, which are involved in communication among neurons and help to maintain a normal balance in brain activity. Dr. Cohen's research previously showed that a BCAA diet restored cognitive ability in brain-injured mice. The current study was the first to analyze sleep-wake patterns in an animal model.

The National Institutes of Health (grants HL0077113, HL111725-01A1, NS069629 and HD059288) supported this study, as well as the University of Pennsylvania Department of Medicine/Measey Research Fellowship. Cohen and CHOP hold a provisional U.S. patent for the use of BCAA as a therapy for traumatic brain injury.

For more information, please see CHOP’s news release.

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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.