Over the past week, TV and online news have been abuzz about a “concussion pill” that can almost magically heal brain injuries. Perhaps you’ve seen this report or this recent article from Mashable that are being shared across social media, but unfortunately just under the incredible headline claims lies the truth – such a treatment is years away.
A recent study caught a lot of attention within the medical community for showing an experimental treatment can help restore normal brain structure and function in mice that have sustained severe concussions, but many news outlets have taken that bit of information and run with it.
While researchers hope to begin working on human trials for the treatment, a so-called “concussion pill” would take years of testing and approval from the FDA before it could be available to athletes and veterans who have sustained brain injuries.
The landmark study that launched the media buzz identified an early protein that appears to be a precursor to tau – fibrous tangles of protein linked with chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It also showed this precursor protein can be eliminated by an antibody that latches onto the protein and essentially marks it for destruction by the body.
In mice that were given severe traumatic brain injuries similar to those sustained by athletes and soldiers, the treatment prevented neurodegeneration and helped restore cognitive function.
Not only did these findings provide hope that a similar human treatment may be formulated, it provided evidence that the misshapen tau are a “major early driver of disease” after TBI.
The findings are a huge step in traumatic brain injury research and open the possibility for a future human treatment on the horizon, but the simple fact is there is no pill available currently that can help you recover from a traumatic brain injury. The best treatment is still considered to be rest in low-stimulation environments and taking preventative steps to avoid future TBI.