Brain trauma victims may see benefits of research

A decades-old memory led a geneticist to fill a gap in modeling systems for studying traumatic brain injuries that plague many Florida athletes. When he noticed fruit flies’ reaction to being stunned 40 years ago, he didn’t think much of it. However, as a geneticist at the University of Wisconsin, he realized that he might use the insects’ DNA to research how susceptibility to brain trauma might be coded in the genes.

Traumatic brain injuries happen when a force to the head causes the brain to strike against the inside of the skull. This can be caused by anything from a fall to an auto accident. Of the 1.7 million TBIs reported every year in the United States, about one-third are caused by falls and the rest are due to sports injuries, workplace accidents and automobile crashes. A recent addition to that list was explosions injuring combat veterans.

One of the difficulties in researching and treating TBIs is that its effects often take time to develop. Immediate effects may seem mild, such as dizziness, loss of coordination and confusion. Over a period of time, however, the injury may cause neurodegeneration and its accompanying symptoms, such as cognitive problems, memory loss, Alzheimer’s-like dementia and severe depression. Traumatic brain injuries cost billions in medical expenses and lost productivity every year.

Florida residents who have suffered from brain injuries may need long-term medical care and be unable to work. This can lead to financial strain for families. If a brain injury was due to the negligence of another, an injured individual may file a claim to recover his or her expenses.

Source: Science Daily, “From Football to Flies: Lessons About Traumatic Brain Injury“, October 14, 2013