AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 3, 2017

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Penn Study Shows Modified Blood Thinner Reduces the Impact of Traumatic Brain Injury in Mice

Authors say promising results of a non-anticoagulant version of the common drug could lead to a Phase II clinical trial

 

A chemically modified version of the common blood thinner heparin may be the first promising method of preventing the harmful cascade of destruction to brain tissue that commonly follows traumatic brain injury (TBI), according to new research findings. Though there is currently no drug therapy to prevent the repercussions that can occur in the days and weeks after TBI, researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania showed that mice treated with a modified version of heparin with very low coagulant activity (known as 2-O, 3-O desulfated heparin, ODSH or CX-01) had less brain swelling and inflammation, and less evidence of brain damage, compared to mice that received saline. 

Traumatic brain injury (TBI), which accounts for more than 2.5 million emergency room visits every year in the United States, often triggers inflammation and other harmful processes in the brain, causing further damage and cognitive deterioration long after the initial injury. Ordinary heparin has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to protect various organs after injury, but its blood-thinning effect makes it problematic for use in injured brains, where a bleed could be fatal. ODSH has only a small fraction of heparin’s anticoagulant effect, and thus seemed a good bet as a safer alternative. Prior studies in animal models of heart attack, stroke, and pneumonia have found evidence that ODSH has a heparin-like anti-inflammatory effect, without the risk of hemorrhages.

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