The long-term objective of this research is to examine mechanisms of acute astrocyte damage and death following traumatic brain injury and to develop treatment strategies for attenuating these injury mechanisms. We address anatomical and functional consequences of traumatic brain injury using neuroanatomical, neuroimaging, and behavioral techniques with the goal of understanding the pathological mechanism and developing therapeutic strategies. Traumatic brain injury is a significant health problem that results in more than 230,000 hospitalizations and 50,000 deaths per year in the USA. Survivors of TBI are often left with long-term disability. Astrocytes are the most numerous type of gila cells and provide many important functions to support neurons including exchange of metabolic and nutritional material, clearance of neurotransmitters, and maintenance of ion concentrations in the vicinity of neurons. Astrocyte function is likely to have great importance after traumatic brain injury when extracellular glutamate and potassium concentrations are elevated. Severe damage to astrocytes occurs within hours after traumatic brain injury in brain regions that later exhibit significant neuronal cell degeneration and loss. We hypothesize that the early damage to astrocytes is due, in part, to large increases in intracellular sodium that enter astrocytes through sodium-dependent glutamate transporters and by activation of the type 1 sodium proton exchanger. The resulting increased intracellular sodium promotes reversal of the astrocyte sodium-calcium exchanger creating an excess of intracellular calcium that ultimately leads to astrocyte death. We will test and refine these hypotheses using established cell culture injury models. We will subject cells to traumatic injury and manipulate various sodium and calcium transporters while measuring intracellular ion concentrations and cell viability. This information will be used to explore novel pharmacological manipulations targeted at these sodium and calcium injury mechanisms. In these in vivo therapeutic studies we will measure astrocyte and neuronal viability using anatomical markers, measure brain edema using magnetic resonance imaging, and measure functional outcome using behavioral measures of sensorimotor function and learning and memory following traumatic brain injury in the rat.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BDCN-1 (01))
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Hicks, Ramona R
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University of California Davis
Schools of Medicine
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