New peptide find promises major advances in brain injury care


US scientists have discovered a new peptide that can prevent brain-cells from dying after traumatic brain injury.

In an article for the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers from Indiana University have argued that the peptide, a type of protein designated CDB3, can reduce acute and chronic pain without undermining other vital nerve functions.

CDB3 was previously believed to cause the death of neurons after strokes and severe blows to the head.

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At least 50 years' research has shown that the NMDA receptor is triggered by injury or trauma. According to Dr Rajesh Khanna, this leads to a massive influx of toxic calcium into the cells, causing them to die. "Our strategy was to regulate this protein," said Dr Khanna, "to control it but not block it completely since some calcium is needed for fundamental cellular functions."

The researchers, who have also successfully prevented cell death in a traumatic brain injury model for rats, said that current testing should determine how useful this peptide might be in a blast injury model, which mimics injuries from explosions, motorcycle accidents and other trauma.

Dr Khanna explained that a single systemic injection of CDB3 allows enough peptide to cross the blood-brain barrier. "It produces a marked reduction in cell death in the hippocampus, an area vital for memory and learning."

Seeking medications against traumatic brain injury and other neuronal conditions, the scientists plan to test the peptide at longer intervals after injury, and with different kinds of brain injuries.

"We've extended the function of this peptide beyond pain," concluded Dr Khanna. "The fact that CBD3 protects neurons when given two hours after stroke is very promising."

Neil Fearn of Simpson Millar LLP said the report means much to the support network for people who have suffered brain injuries. "These findings are extremely encouraging. The more specialist practices can keep pace with advances in healthcare and understand the long-term clinical implications of traumatic brain injury, the better help will be available to those who suffer."

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