Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major health problem, representing a third of all injury-related deaths in the United States and 70% of long-term disabilities in survivors. Decades of TBI research focused almost exclusively on neuroprotective strategies, has failed to develop any therapeutics for clinical treatment. One less explored potential target is the cerebral circulation. In TBI, there is increasing recognition that the peri-contusional areas of TBI suffer microvascular failure and diffusional hypoxia and edema. Our studies on microvascular shunts (MVS) with high intracranial pressure (ICP) corroborate microcirculatory failure. We propose here modulation of hemodynamics with blood soluble drag reducing polymers (DRP) as a novel treatment modality for TBI that specifically targets cerebral microcirculation and that based on physical but not pharmacological principles. Nanomolar amounts of intravenous DRP reduce blood pressure loss in arterioles by diminishing flow separations and microvortices at vessel bifurcations, increase precapillary pressure and the density of functioning capillaries. Increased vascular wall shear rate may reduce transcapillary macrophage migration and inflammation. We showed that 140 g/kg of intravenous DRP (ED70) increased blood flow velocity in cerebral arterioles, reduced MVS, restored perfusion in capillaries and reduced tissue hypoxia in a rat model of TBI when i.v. injected 30 minutes after the insult. The next logical step, our objective, is to perform a comprehensive study of the dose and time-related efficacy of DRP and to examine the therapeutic mechanisms involved. Central hypothesis: DRP, through their general dose-dependent action on cerebrovascular microcirculation, can present a unique and effective therapy for TBI, applicable at both, early and later time. The rationale is that unlike other TBI therapies tested thus far, the hemorheological effects of DRP are independent of tissue status in terms of tissue or vascular receptor reactivity or sensitivity for its mechanism of action. Our long-term goal is to optimize the application of DRP after TBI for maximal efficacy on long-term recovery and provide for the first time, a therapeutic intervention that may be effective even if delayed hours after injury. Using the lateral fluid percussion injury TBI model in rats, we will address two aims: 1) to study the acute dose-dependent effects of DRP on the time course and relative changes in cerebral microvascular flow, i.e. MVS, tissue oxygenation and metabolism using in-vivo 2-photon laser microscopy and laser speckle imaging after moderate and severe TBI; and 2) to define the optimal dose and therapeutic time window of DRP for clinically relevant long-term outcomes and mechanisms involved using magnetic resonance imaging, behavioral testing and histology, possible anti-inflammatory effects of rheological modulation will be evaluated by ELISA and immunohistochemistry. To comply with NIH requirement, studies will be done on both sexes to evaluate possible female/male differences. The proposed research is significant since it will provide the first non-pharmacologic rheological treatment for TBI targeting impaired cerebral microcirculation and will reveal the blood flow-related pathogenesis and recovery mechanisms in TBI.

Public Health Relevance

Despite that traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major health problem, no therapeutic treatment has received FDA approval. We propose a novel therapeutic approach for the treatment of TBI through improvement of the blood fluid properties by small concentrations of soluble drag reducing molecules that could be applied independently from traumatized tissue status and, therefore, would be highly important to public health. The project is relevant to the part of NIND's mission that pertains to the advancement of our fundamental knowledge about the translation of improved blood flow properties into recuperated traumatic brain injury outcomes, its mechanisms, and application of that knowledge in practice to reduce TBI-related disability and mortality.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Project (R01)
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Acute Neural Injury and Epilepsy Study Section (ANIE)
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Bellgowan, Patrick S F
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University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center
Schools of Medicine
United States
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