A Noble Treatment for TBI on the Table

Following a physical trauma, a person may become comatose or ostensibly inert.  It is through the use of an inert gas, though, that the effects of this trauma may be lessened in the brain.

The inert noble gas xenon (Xe) has been found to be a possible first treatment for brain injury, lessening the progression of the injury.  (Traumatic physical trauma causes both primary and secondary injuries.)  The study in which this discovery was made, published by the NIH in 2018, found that, “Xenon applied 1h after blast exposure reduced injury 24h, 48h, and 72h later, compared with untreated control injury.”  Of course, this study was focused on brain injuries obtained in combat and was tested only in mice, but it seems probable that the effects of xenon would apply to humans who suffer physical traumas, as well.

Beyond being a possible first treatment, xenon has been found to have other benefits related to brain injury.  For example, last year it was reported that when xenon is used in the treatment of cardiac arrest, brain damage is lessened or even prevented.  Xenon provides analgesia, a pain killer, to the body.  Also, Xenon activates TREK-1 channels.  TREK-1 channels have an “important role in neuroprotection against epilepsy,” a common negative side effect of brain injury.  Additionally, inhalation of Xe has been used effectively to eliminate the fear-inducing memories that result from PTSD.

However, Xenon is not a miracle drug.  The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which creates the list of prohibited drugs for the Olympic and Paralympic leagues, has xenon on its Prohibited List.  Xenon can enhance athletics performance likely because it, “stimulates the synthesis of erythropoietin (EPO) by increase of hypoxia inducible factor.”  (EPO is a hormone needed to form red blood cells.  Hypoxia-Inducible factor regulates oxygen consumption.)  Xe, though, is not prohibited by the NCAA or any professional sports league in the United States.

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