In a recent study, a group of European researchers finds that just a single traumatic brain injury can generate an abnormal form of dementia associated protein tau.
The disease can slowly spread through the brain, resulting in memory deficits and neuronal damage.
Traumatic brain injury is a leading cause of death and disability in young adults. Even a mild brain injury can be a risk factor for subsequent neurodegenerative disease such as dementia.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a condition linked to a repetitive concussion and blast, but not well recognized as a consequence of severe traumatic brain injury.
Understand how an acute mechanical event links to a progressive, degenerative brain disease would help the development of new therapies.
In the study, the team shows that a single severe brain trauma is linked to the emergence of widespread tau pathology in a proportion of humans surviving late after injury.
In parallel experimental studies mice, the team found progressive and widespread tau pathology, replicating the findings in humans.
The brain-injured mice showed widespread tau pathology, synaptic loss, and persistent memory deficits.
These results provide evidence that experimental brain trauma induces a self-propagating tau pathology, which may lead to neurodegenerative disease.
In Europe, more than 5 million people live with a physical and/or psychological disability due to moderate or severe traumatic brain injury.
This study identifies tau propagation as a possible mechanism responsible for the long-term disability of traumatic brain injury patients and suggests that blocking tau propagation may have therapeutic effects.
Dr. Elisa Zanier led the Mario Negri Institute team with Dr. Roberto Chiesa.
The study is published in the journal Brain.
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