New Channel 6 runs a program called The Means Report, where their anchor Brad Means covers more in-depth stories. A recent episode of The Means Report featured Dr. John Vender, the Vice Chair of the department of neurosurgery at Medical College of Georgia (MCG), and Dr. Krishnan Dhandapani (“Dr. Kris”), a neuroscientist at MCG. The piece was titled “Advancements in treating traumatic brain injury,” and the doctors discussed several advancements including a re-introduction of a 40-year old idea.
Many chemical changes happen to a victims’ brain after a TBI. Doctors are focusing on the first few hours and days. There are some new medications that are being used to control inflammation and swelling of the brain. Dr. Kris said that victims who are treated after a car accident get edema, which is defined as water in the brain. Researchers began looking for molecules that could block the water channel. Looking back at 40-year-old literature, they found data suggesting that a specific dye could help reduce swelling on the brain.
From a model researchers created, they were able to determine more specifically that a dye called aquaporin-4 (AQP$) helped block an inflammatory factor known as interleukin 1 beta (IL-1beta). IL-1beta appears to be a biomarker, which means patients who have high levels of this chemical have worse outcomes. Blocking this biomarker with the dye helps the patient’s prognosis. The dye, a brilliant blue G (BBG) dye, can be found in a variety of sources, like blue M&Ms, ice-creams with blue or purple coloring, and blue and purple Gatorade.
The reporter asked whether the old literature showed that the dye was being used to treat the brain 40 years ago. The doctors said no – that it took a lot of time for the FDA to approve the dye for foods. No one was looking into using it to help TBI victims decades ago.
The doctors stated that swelling in the brain, called edema, is usually most severe in the first three to five days, but can last for weeks. So, using the dye does make a difference if it’s given soon after the trauma occurs.
The use of the blue dye hasn’t been clinically tested yet. The doctors said they are experimenting with the dye on mice. One interesting finding the doctors say is that after the injection of the dye, they believe it is the immune system which helps reduce the swelling.
It is speculated that the dye used to treat brain swelling would also be relatively inexpensive, since it wasn’t developed by the pharmaceutical industry. As a relative of an existing dye (those found in M&Ms and the other discussed foods and drinks), it should be cost-friendly to patients. The downside to not being a Big Pharma drug, say the doctors, is that large pharmaceutical companies often help pay for clinical trials. Without the sponsorship of the drug industry, the researchers need help from other sources such as the National Institute of Health.
Additional TBI treatment advancements
The doctors further discussed that when swelling occurs, there are different strategies for reducing the swelling. A surgeon may drill a hole which drains the excess fluid which helps to reduce the pressure on the brain after a fall from heights or other accident causes. Just a small amount of drainage can make a big difference in a patient’s long-term recovery. Surgeons also use a pressure monitor that is put into the brain tissue. The monitor helps determine the course of therapy.
Another advancement the doctors discussed is a last-resort effort. It involves removing a side of the skull, so that if the brain swells, the swelling has room to move instead of putting pressure on the brain stem. If the brain stem is compressed too much, the patient can die. The removal of the skull bone, called a hemicraniectomy procedure, allows the brain to swell away from the brain stem. When the swelling goes down, the doctors then put the skull bone back in the patient’s body. During the interim, the time when they skull bone is removed, the patient must wear a protective helmet. The doctors said the procedure is 80-90% effective (saves lives) for the teenagers they used the procedure on.
If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI or has died as a result of someone’s carelessness, we are here to help. We are the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, Nashville’s premier TBI attorneys and we fight for the life-changing compensation which pays for things like mounting medical bills, time lost from work, inability to return to work, future medical expenses and pain and emotional suffering for the victim and family. We don’t back down if the opponent is big or the fight is tough. We have the experience, industry connections and resources to battle for the maximum recovery in for every client. Our firm has locations in Nashville, Hendersonville, and Knoxville, Tennessee. Please call us at 615-246-5549 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We fight for you!