A new experimental drug tested in animal trials could potentially have huge implications for those recovering from traumatic brain injuries in the future. The drug, called ISRIB, completely restored memory and the ability to learn in mice with brain injuries similar to TBI in humans, even when the drug was administered up to a month after the injury.
The results could completely change brain injury treatment, which currently emphasizes speed to preserve cognitive function and prevent further injury.
In past research of medications that were found to be effective in mice, the drugs were administered immediately after treatment. But, as the researchers from the University of California in San Francisco note, there are potentially millions of people every year who avoid seeking medical help immediately after their injury.
In many cases, symptoms may not be immediately apparent and many still underestimate the significant lasting damage that can be caused by TBI.
According to the report published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new drug was effective in trials for two different types of brain injury. One focused on concussive injuries or traumatic brain injury, while the other mimicked “focal injuries” similar to what occurs when someone has a stroke or is hit by a small object.
In the tests of concussive injuries, the researchers administered ISRIB two weeks after giving the mice brain injuries. Then, the mice had to find a tunnel that escaped from the test area among 40 holes in a table, all while in a room of bright lights and noise. They found that those who were given the drug were significantly better at finding the third tunnel. By the third and final day of testing, the mice who were given the treatment performed as well as uninjured mice.
In the other, mice were trained to navigate a water maze one month after a surgically administered focal injury. After several days, those that were given the drug during the training period moved through the maze notably faster than those who were not treated. This gap of ability remained even a month after the treatment stopped.
The trials of the drug are in the very earliest stages, and will need to go through several more tests before even entering human trials. If confirmed and proven to be safe and effective in humans, however, the treatment could completely revolutionize TBI treatment years from now.