Traumatic Brain Injury Can Be Healed

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Contrary to decades of medical teaching that the brain and nervous system, once injured, cannot heal, the nervous system has significant capacity for repair and regeneration, write Timothy Marshall, Ph.D., and Carol Henricks, M.D., in the summer issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.

About 2 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) every year, as from concussion. Thousands of veterans have disabling damage due to blast exposure from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Medications currently used to treat consequences such as depression, sleep disturbance, and cognitive problems may help some symptoms, but they do not promote healing or inhibit cell death or neurodegeneration, the authors note.

A new treatment model called biochemical restoration is emerging. Minerals that are especially important in reducing neuro-inflammation and promoting repair are lithium, magnesium, and zinc. Authors review some of the biochemical mechanisms in which these minerals are involved, such as regulating the function of more than 100 proteins.

Neurological repair, even in long-standing injury, is also stimulated by hyperbaric oxygenation therapy (HBOT), that is, breathing oxygen in a chamber under pressure, usually about 1.5 times atmospheric pressure. Authors explain that HBOT stimulates production of neurotrophic growth factors and the proliferation and mobilization of neural stem cells. It also modifies the expression of many genes and inhibits programmed cell death.

Authors conclude that “while there is currently no standard-of-care therapy that has been recognized to treat brain injury, which is too often considered hopeless, this could change with biochemical restoration therapy and hyperbaric oxygenation therapy (HBOT).” Much further research is needed to establish the most effective regimens.

The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons is published by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a national organization representing physicians in all specialties since 1943.

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