These microscope images show undamaged (A) and damaged (B) microglial cells in the brains of laboratory rats in research that mimics a form of brain trauma commonly seen in combat veterans. Findings suggest a new diagnostic tool for early detection and a potential treatment. Credit: Purdue University image/Riyi Shi

Researchers have developed a procedure to mimic in laboratory experiments a form of brain trauma commonly seen in combat veterans, and findings suggest a new diagnostic tool for early detection and a potential treatment.

About one in five wounded soldiers suffers from and an estimated 52 percent of those injuries are blast-induced neurotrauma. A subclass called mild blast-induced neurotrauma is particularly difficult to diagnose because people who have it often display no obvious motor impairment or other , said Riyi Shi, a professor in Purdue University’s Department of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, and Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering.

“Many times they don’t even realize they’ve been injured, and this is particularly alarming because these injuries have been linked to severe long-term psychiatric and degenerative neurological dysfunction,” he said. “The underlying mechanisms of injury remain poorly understood, impeding development of diagnostic and treatment strategies.”

The initial injury is caused by the shock wave from explosions. However, researchers believe secondary damage takes place in the days and weeks that follow the initial injury, and this secondary damage might be treatable.

The researchers have developed a method to mimic mild blast-induced neurotrauma in laboratory rats,…

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