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The Role of Mitochondria, Imaging, and Drugs in Traumatic Brain Injury Treatments

A recent KSAT article included an in-depth interview with a renowned brain injury doctor who has specialized in helping child victims. The doctor has worked with southern Illinois patients, and has been responsible for vast improvements in the outcomes for many of these victims. Our Illinois brain injury lawyers were impressed to learn that not only were more children’s lives being saved by improvements in care, but the quality of life for those survivors was also drastically improving. This is very positive news that has tremendous implications for all those families who have youngsters who fall victim to these injuries.

As part of the interview, the doctor provided some interesting insights into some unique facets of brain injuries and treatments for those injuries. For example, he explained the important role that mitochondria play in brain cells (and subsequently brain injuries). He noted that the mitochondria are the “energy hogs” of the cell, as it uses the necessary energy to perform the complex tasks required of the brain. The functionality of the brain in large part depends on the efficiency of the mitochondria in the brain cell. Essentially the mitochondria can be viewed as the nuclear power plants of the brain. When something goes wrong, there can essentially be a leakage. That leakage can be deadly, because it sends the message to the cell that it is time to stop functioning. When a traumatic brain injury occurs, the brain has no energy. This makes the person unconscious and sends the surrounding cells are a message that they are supposed to stop functioning. Halting these leakages is essentially the challenge of preventing complications from the brain injury.

The doctor also explained that at the forefront of improving traumatic brain injury treatments is improving imaging. Of course the first step in treating a problem is to understand exactly what is going on. The best option right now is to conduct MRIs on patient brains and attempt to test the mitochondria and determine if something is going wrong. What has recently been uncovered is that children who suffer these injuries have mitochondrial problems for weeks afterwards. This is actually good news, because it means that once new treatment methods are devised, doctors might have time to stop the breakdown and improve outcomes.

Essentially those possible treatment options would be new drugs that might help stop the mitochondrial breakdown. There are at least three candidates at the moment, but it will take years before any of those has received a thorough enough test to be sure that they either do or do not work as hoped. If effective the drugs will allows medical professionals to take a proactive approach to helping these victims. Right now the main strategy is to treat the brain in intensive care and let it heal on its own. The drugs would travel to the brain, go directly to the mitochondria, and hopefully help them heal. This active approach, it is hoped, will result in less swelling in the first few days after a TBI, less intensive care, and faster overall recovery.

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