Single Traumatic Brain Injury May Lead to Alzheimer's Disease

Even though many people may not be aware, traumatic brain injury or TBI is a common injury. Every year around 1.7 million people in the United States suffer traumatic brain injuries from traffic accidents, construction accidents, falls, participation in sports and even assaults. The recent coverage of TBI in the media demonstrates the growing recognition of how widespread brain injury has become and how much more there is left to learn. Those who suffer a traumatic brain injury sometimes face long-term consequences. Recently, research has shown a link between traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer's disease.

The new research suggests that a single moderate-to-severe TBI can lead to Alzheimer's disease. Moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury is caused by trauma that results in the loss consciousness. In a study using mice and tissue samples from Alzheimer's patients, researchers at Tuft's University School of Medicine found that one significant TBI can disrupt proteins in the brain that regulate an enzyme identified with Alzheimer's.

The research team in a live experiment sought to measure the effect of a single TBI event and how it could alter the brain. Within the first two days following injury, the team detected reduced levels of two proteins, GGA1 and GGA3, and elevation of enzyme BACE1. The research team then compared the results to post-mortem brain samples from Alzheimer's patients and observed that similar changes to the protein and enzyme levels had occurred.

The team then examined the relation among the two proteins and the enzyme even further. The team conducted an experiment using genetically modified mice with reduced levels of GGA3 and found that particular protein was associated with the increase in BACE1 enzyme associated with Alzheimer's. Enzyme levels in the mice were still elevated one week after traumatic brain injury, even though the level of the GGA1 protein had returned to normal. The team concluded that their experiments suggest that reduced levels of GGA3 are solely responsible for the increase in BACE1 level.

In a discussion of their findings, the research team explained that when the GGA1 and GGA3 proteins are at normal levels they work together as a clean-up crew for the brain by regulating the removal of BACE1 enzymes. The discovery of the relation between the two proteins may lead to the development of a drug to regulate the BACE1 enzyme and therefore treat the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's disease affects more than 5 million people in the U.S. and is the most common cause of dementia among adults age 65 and older. Studies have linked head trauma to long-term consequences like brain disease and specifically Alzheimer's. If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury and you believe another party is responsible, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to review your legal options.