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In the past, our blog has discussed in great detail the extent to which the failure to diagnose a traumatic brain injury can greatly compromise the health of a patient, resulting in everything from impaired motor function and decreased cognitive ability to the onset of mood disorders and memory problems.
In fact, if a medical professional fails to order something as simple as a magnetic resonance imaging scan in the aftermath of a car accident, slip and fall or hard sport-related hit, they may miss damage to the blood-brain barrier, a phenomenon that has been linked to the potential development of epilepsy.
Back in 2002, researchers at the University of California-Berkley set out to determine what exactly happens when the integrity of the protective sheath covering the brain (i.e., the blood-brain barrier) is somehow compromised, meaning the brain is exposed to blood that had previously been circulated across the entire body.
Shockingly, they determined that when the blood-brain barrier is compromised by this blood, the patient can develop epilepsy and its associated seizures.
They discovered that the reason for this phenomenon was the presence of an otherwise abundant protein in the blood called albumin, which is manufactured in the liver and responsible for transporting proteins across the body.
In general, albumin is a necessary component of human blood. However, the researchers determined that when an excessive amount of albumin crosses the blood-brain barrier, it can interact with a cell protein called the TGF-beta receptor. While this sounds harmless enough, it actually creates a surplus of signaling between neurons that can cause seizures.
“We were surprised, even a little disappointed, that it was such a common component of the blood — nothing exotic at all — that led to epilepsy,” said one of the researchers.
Interestingly, the same group of researchers are now using the results of this finding to develop an emergency drug to be administered to brain injury victims. Specifically, they are examining whether a prescription drug otherwise designed to treat high blood pressure by preventing TGF-beta receptors from signaling can be used in the context of preventing the TGF-beta receptors from reacting with the albumin that crosses the blood-brain barrier in the event of a TBI.
“Right now, if someone comes to the emergency room with traumatic brain injury, they have a 10 to 50 percent chance of developing epilepsy … And epilepsy from brain injuries is the type most unresponsive to drugs,” said the researcher. “I’m very hopeful that our research can spare these patients the added trauma of epilepsy.”
It should be interesting to see what results the study yields. In the meantime, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your options if you or a family member has suffered a traumatic brain injury because of what you believe was medical malpractice.
Source: Healthline News, “Berkeley researchers developing emergency drug for brain injuries,” Brian Krans, Feb. 21, 2014