It is often quite hard to determine how bad a brain injury is soon after it has happens, yet speed is needed for the best treatment of the injury, in order to have the best chance of recovery. No one brain injury it quite like another. Earlier this year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded an important study about advances in the treatment of brain injuries. Briefly, the study group identified that the brain lipid molecule, a type of fatty acid in brains, known as lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), significantly increased after a TBI in a preclinical animal model. In general, fatty acids in the brain are thought to be important in brain function, but in excess, they are not healthy. Moreover, the researchers found that LPA was elevated in areas associated with cell death and axonal injury, both major hallmarks of moderate and severe TBI. The study was carried out at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
If the results of this study holds for humans, it will give doctors a tool to ID right away if they are dealing with a moderate to severe brain injury, and not a mild one. Though it has only been studied in animals, LPA could possibly be used as a biomarker of TBI, which could be particularly useful in cases when it is not clear if a brain injury has occurred. (In some cases, such as a very bad car accidents, it is pretty clear that there has been a moderate to severe injury and cell death. But that is not always the case, as with ABIs and other TBIs, it might less clear how bad the injury is without using a biomarker tool.)
Monitoring the LPA levels of a brain injury patient may allow neurologists to make smart and fast decisions with as many tools as needed medically, rather than having to guess about the severity, based on one factor – the amount of swelling.