Traumatic brain injury (TBI) often leads to cognitive impairment and permanent damage to neural tissues, for which no effective therapies exist. The severe cognitive impairments that patients experience and the burden on caregivers can be enormous, requiring a constant search for treatments that can help them.
Researchers at the University of Georgia have now reported in the journal Scientific advances about a remarkable hydrogel they developed that seems to protect the brain from tissue loss after a TBI and even repair damaged neural networks.
The material, which researchers call “brain glue,” is based on a network of sugar that brain cells use as a support. The gel has characteristics that make it bind to the basic growth factor of fibroblasts and the neurotrophic factor derived from the brain that help brain cells survive and regrow after an injury.
To assess its effectiveness for TBI, ice was implanted in the brains of rats after injury and allowed to do their job. A tissue cleaning method was then used to make the animals transparent effectively, which allowed the team to see what the relevant parts of the brain were doing when the animals used their reach circuits.
“Our work provides a holistic view of what is happening in the recovery of the damaged region while the animal performs a specific task of scope and understanding,” said project lead scientist and tail developer Lohitash Karumbaiah. “Due to the tissue cleansing method, we were able to gain a deeper view of the complex circuits and recovery supported by the tail. Using these methods along with conventional electrophysiological records, we were able to validate that the tail supported the regeneration of functional neurons in the lesion cavity “.
This research is expected to translate into effective clinical therapy that can help address some of the consequences of brain injury.
Here is a picture of the brain of a rat treated with glue after a TBI: