Scientists say they are one step closer to showing that their experimental hydrogel technology – better known as ‘brain glue’ – can help people with traumatic brain injury. In a recent study, they found that their brain glue helped prevent long-term damage and tissue loss in the injured brains of rats, while also speeding up the healing process.
Severe traumatic brain injury, the kind caused by life-threatening accidents or assaults that can put people in a coma, is very difficult to treat. Even in the best of cases, people often have to undergo a long recovery process, and they May experience lifelong complications. But researchers at the University of Georgia, led by Lohitash Karumbaiah, have been to work about developing new ways to repair this kind of acutely damaged brain.
A promising approach developed by Karumbaiah and his team is their brain glue. The glue is actually made of complex sugars, which are arranged in a way to look like sugars naturally found in the brain. Normally, these compounds bind to other proteins that together help protect and repair brain cells. By implanting the glue in people’s brains shortly after an injury, we hope it will enhance our natural healing ability, prevent otherwise untreatable brain damage, and ensure better outcomes for patients.
Previous research from the team suggested that the glue appeared to work as intended in rats with severe brain injuries in the short term, with documented benefits until four weeks later. But this new study, published last month in Science Advances, found that benefits of the treatment can also be seen 20 weeks after injury, compared to a control group of rats.
“Animal subjects implanted with brain glue actually showed recovery from severely damaged brain tissue,” Karumbaiah said in a report. statement released by the university. “The animals also showed a faster recovery time compared to subjects without these materials.”
The treated rats seemed to improve cognitively. As part of the experiment, they were given a simple task of reaching and grasping an object, and the treated subjects performed better than the control group. The researchers also found evidence of improved healing in the areas of the brain known to be involved in this task, indicating that the glue was responsible for the better performance.
Rats and humans share many similar brain circuits, so it’s very possible that this glue could help people with these types of injuries. But further studies and clinical trials in humans should before we could begin to see this kind of technology being widely used in hospitals. To this end, Karumbaiah has filed for a patent on his brain glue, and his team has collected funding to continue this research. It pays off, it’s the kind of work that could help not only people with severe traumatic brain injuries, but other neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease.