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Life scientists at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) conducting research on head injuries have identified master genes that are believed to control hundreds of other genes that are linked to several diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and schizophrenia. The research was done at UCLA’s Institute for Quantitative and Computational Biosciences.
The scientists believe these master genes explain why traumatic brain injury is the trigger for the later development of adverse changes in the brain. Stroke, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are among the other conditions that have a gene linked to these master genes. Little is known about why football players, military veterans, and other victims of head injuries develop neurological disorders afterwards and the scientists hope to shed light on these mysteries.
Genes may develop into any of a number of different proteins and a disorder like Alzheimer’s occurs if a gene turns into the wrong type of protein. It is also possible that the number of expressed copies of a gene in each cell can be changed. When the master gene is damaged from a traumatic brain injury, the damage can be passed on to other genes.
The UCLA study used trained rats that could solve a maze. Half were given a fluid-induced brain injury similar to a concussion. After the brain injury, the injured rats took about 25 percent longer to solve the maze they already knew. The scientists then examined genes from the injured animals by drawing RNA from the hippocampus and from leukocytes. The hippocampus is the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory, while leukocytes (white blood cells) have a vital role in the body’s immune system.
A core group of 268 genes in the hippocampus was found to have been altered in the injured rats. The leukocytes contained 1,215 changed genes, which was surprising to the researchers. Because of an overlap of nearly two dozen genes that appeared in both groups, it is possible that a gene-based blood test can be developed to determine if the patient has suffered a brain injury. There is also the possibility of measuring how many altered genes are present to predict the likelihood of developing neurological disorders in the future.
Identifying the master genes means they could conceivably be targeted for development of new drugs to treat diseases of the brain. Damaged genes could be modified to lower the risk of disease, and there may be chemical compounds in foods that help repair damage and fight off disease.
A head injury can mean more than just the pain and suffering of an immediate wound, the real damage can lie down the road. If you have suffered an accident resulting in a head injury, you should immediately seek medical attention and the counsel of a South Jersey personal injury lawyer from Folkman Law. Call 856-354-9444 today or contact us online. Our South Jersey personal injury lawyers have offices in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.