Researchers have known for some time now that, when the brain is injured or damaged, the brain’s “emergency workers” help to minimize and even stop the damage. These repair cells, known as microglia, move to the injured part of the brain and consume, or “eat” cellular debris and injured or dead neurons, containing the injury before it can spread.
It has long puzzled brain injury researchers how these cells locate the injury in order to do their work. A new study by researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, and published in Developmental Cell, has established exactly how microglia locate the injuries.
When a brain neuron is injured, it sends out a sort of distress call, by releasing glutamate molecules. Nearby neurons, responding to the glutamate, absorb calcium. As the glutamate spreads, so does the calcium-absorbing effect. As the neurons absorb calcium, they also release another molecule, ATP. Microglia which detect ATP then move towards it, following the trail of ATP to the injury site.
The brain injury attorneys hope that this research enables researchers to develop more effective treatments for traumatic and non-traumatic brain injuries, as well as situations when microglia are for some reason unable to locate and thus contain an injury.
This new knowledge could be crucial in quickly treating traumatic brain injuries, and could also prove key in conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which affect microglia’s ability to detect the site of injury. We applaud the scientists who have taken this important step forward, and encourage others to build on this important research.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago brain injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.