Last year, bioengineers at Harvard University identified the mechanism for diffuse axonal injury and explained why cerebral vasospasm is more common in blast-induced brain injuries than in brain injuries typically suffered by civilians. Their research offers hope that by better understanding blast-induced injuries, new treatments can be devised.
New military-funded treatments are already in the works to attempt to reduce casualties from blast-induced injuries. Researchers at Purdue University have partnered with the U.S. Army and top neurosurgeons in order to develop a new breed of stents that are used to treat aneurysms—including those caused by head trauma due to bomb blasts. These stents – tubular structures made from a metallic mesh – will be treated with a bioactive coating which will be used to help heal the inside lining of blood vessels. The bioactive coating is designed to introduce a regenerative process which will help attract cells to reconstruct the arterial wall.
The stents’ coatings are modified in a Purdue facility and use ions to magnetize the stents surface. The biomimetic surface promotes cellular proliferation and can help to repair blood vessels that have been damaged.
Introducing nanotechnology to aneurysm treatment is revolutionary and might end up saving a great many lives. Current aneurysm treatments tend to involve methods of brain surgery that are highly dangerous with survival rates of less than 50%. With nanotechnology, survival rates could be significantly improved.
According to Purdue professor of nuclear engineering Jean Paul Allain, “We are learning how to regulate cell proliferation and growth by tailoring both the function of surface chemistry and topology. There is correlation between surface chemistry and how cells send signals back and forth for proliferation. So the surface needs to be tailored to promote regenerative healing.”
The initial phases of testing will be conducted using blood from pigs. Researchers are also working to ensure that the stents show up in medical imaging to reveal how the coatings hold up in the bloodstream.
Though this treatment is aimed at treating aneurysms, it offers hope that nanotechnology can revolutionize all aspects of traumatic brain injury treatment. These exciting new treatments might serve to prevent or more effectively treat soldiers who are injured in combat. The U.S. Army agrees and is investing heavily in nanotechnology. The work is funded with a three-year, $1.5 million grant. With luck, nanotechnology will revolutionize both military and civilian brain injury treatment centers.