When the brain receives a traumatic injury, irreversible damage occurs as the cells at the point of impact die. Injured cells surrounding the area then release toxic substances, which cause the brain to swell. This decreases blood flow within the brain, leading to lower oxygen levels, which in turn leads to more cell deaths. Recently, however, scientists from North Carolina’s Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have developed a new technique, that has greatly reduced the secondary cell deaths in brain-injured lab rats.
The process is known as mechanical tissue resuscitation (MTR), and it involves the application of negative pressure to remove fluids. In the study, the researchers placed a bioengineered material matrix directly on the injured area of the rats’ brains, then attached a flexible tube which was run into a computer-controlled vacuum pump. Over the next 72 hours, that pump proceeded to steadily draw off fluid released by the injured cells.
Afterwards, brains that were treated in this fashion showed considerably less in the way of swelling and toxic fluids, than those that were left untreated. The treated rats also lost over 50% less brain tissue than the untreated group, and were able to regain brain functions more quickly.
MTR should reportedly soon be ready for clinical trials. The scientists are also looking into its use on stroke and brain hemorrhage victims.
The research is being funded by the Department of Defense.