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Research Indicates Effective Treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury affects millions of individuals each year, resulting in decreased quality of life and high cost medical care. Beverly Rzigalinski, PhD, professor for pharmacology at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM)–Virginia, and a team of VCOM–Virginia students, alumni and Virginia Tech collaborative researchers have published a paper focusing on a new treatment shown to be highly effective in animal models of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Facts:

Of the 1.7 million who sustain a TBI each year in the United States1 :

  • 52,000 die;
  • 275,000 are hospitalized; and
  • 1.365 million are treated and released from an emergency department.

The paper was recently published in the Journal of Neurotrauma. Authors of the paper, “Cerium Oxide Nanoparticles Improve Outcome After In Vitro and In Vivo Mild Traumatic Brain Injury,” who represented VCOM included Rzigalinski; Eric Nilson; John Bates, DO, Class of 2015; Kevin Hockey, Research Lab Manager; Chevon Thorpe, PhD, Assistant Professor for Cell Biology and Physiology; Heidi Rogers, Class of 2017; Bryce Dunn; Aaron Frey, DO, Class of 2015; Marc Billings, DO, Class of 2013; and Christopher Sholar and collaborators from Virginia Tech, Zachary Bailey, Amy Hermundstad and Pamela Vandevord; and Challa Kumar from Harvard.

According to Rzigalinski, this study could be a groundbreaking movement of how brain injuries are treated. “This study has shown that cerium oxide nanoparticles are a viable treatment for traumatic brain injury, and several other neurological disorders, and may usher in a new generation of effective nanopharmaceuticals to improve human health,” she said.

The study involved working with a novel nanopharmaceutical, cerium oxide nanoparticles. Animal models with mild brain injuries, similar to that seen in human concussions, were examined.  The animal models displayed high levels of oxidative stress in the brain, damage to molecules essential to proper brain function and a decline in cognitive function.

In injured animals treated with cerium oxide nanoparticles, oxidative stress levels were maintained at normal levels, damage to molecules essential to brain function was prevented, and cognitive function improved. The results showed that cerium oxide nanoparticles are a viable treatment for traumatic brain injury and several other neurological disorders.

The study was funded by the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

1 Reference:

The paper can be found at
PubMed ID is 27733104

A decline in cognitive function from traumatic brain injury is shown in this figure. In the picture on the left, an animal that received a mild traumatic brain injury was tracked while exploring two novel objects (the round circles). Note this animal does not explore much, and spends a lot of time in the edges of the cage. The animal on shown in the picture on the right received cerium oxide nanoparticles. This animal showed normal exploratory behavior and investigation of the novel objects.
Cerium oxide nanoparticles.