In February 2024, a team of researchers led by Dr Onder Albayram at the Medical University of South Carolina, discovered a new protective response in the brain that aids in its natural repair after traumatic brain injury (TBI). This discovery could explain why some individuals develop brain diseases post-injury, while others do not. 

Following a brain injury, damaged tissue accumulates in mitochondria which hinders function and leads to cell death. The brain has a natural repair mechanism called mitophagy, where it clears damaged mitochondria. The protein p17 has been identified as playing a crucial role in this process by facilitating the transport of enzymes to damaged tissue, initiating the healing process.

This research sheds light on the intricate processes involved in brain recovery post-TBI and how, by targeting p17 and enhancing the brain's mitophagy response, it may be possible to prevent the development of longer term secondary complications which can be associated with brain injuries.

The study underscores the potential of leveraging the brain's natural recovery processes for treatment, akin to how vaccines enhance the body's ability to fight viruses. Dr Albayram stresses the importance of not overlooking these natural mechanisms and suggests that boosting the brain's recovery properties could be a promising approach to combating long-term brain diseases which may sometimes follow traumatic injury. 

Overall, this study represents a significant step towards unravelling the complexities of brain recovery post-injury and holds promise for the development of further drug therapies to prevent complications following TBI. With continued research and collaboration, the potential impact of these findings on clinical practice and patient outcomes could be vast.  

Our Brain Injury Subject Matter Group will report further on developments as they progress.

A link to the study can be found below: