Novel peptides could ward off lasting symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury

Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a new molecule that can protect the brain from inflammation and other effects following a mild traumatic brain injury.

Despite the absence of outward symptoms or “objective structural brain damage,” mTBI still brings about biochemical and cellular changes that can lead to lasting psychological, cognitive and physical problems. Up to half of all mTBI patients may still have symptoms one year after injury, according to a Hebrew University statement. There is no treatment for mTBI.

Daphne Atlas, a professor from the university’s Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, developed new molecules to target the protein Thioredoxin (Trx1). When Trx1 is in its reduced form, it is bound to the protein ASK1, which is released when Trx1 is oxidized. This process initiates a string of enzymatic reactions that causes inflammation.

"It is widely known that external or internal injury strongly activates the inflammatory response and leads to cell death (apoptosis) through the MAPK pathways, which are involved in the cellular responses that lead to inflammation in brain cells," Atlas said in the statement. "Therefore, for reversing the effects of mTBI it is essential to calm the inflammatory pathways."

Atlas and her team synthesized thioredoxin-mimetic peptides (TXM-peptides), which have previously been shown to inhibit MAPK enzymes, thus tamping down on inflammation and protecting cells from early death, according to the statement. In the current study, published in PLOS ONE, her team studied how TXM-peptides fared in preventing secondary brain damage from mTBI.

The team found that spatial memory and visual learning ability dropped in mice who had been given a mild traumatic brain injury under anesthesia. In two separate tests, the team administered a single dose of either of the TXM-peptides they synthesized to mice about an hour after they sustained an mTBI. At the 7-day and 30-day marks postinjury, the team found that the peptides “significantly improved” the decline in learning ability and cognitive performance.

"Further studies are required to establish and examine the potential of a single dose of TXM-peptide in preventing damage if administered even one hour after brain trauma in human scenarios,” Atlas said in the statement.

- here's the statement
- here's the abstract

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