Featuring the work of CURE-supported researcher Dr. Jeanne Paz
“No therapies currently exist to prevent the disabilities that can develop after a brain trauma,” says Jeanne Paz, PhD, associate investigator at Gladstone Institutes. “So, understanding how the traumatic brain injury affects the brain, especially in the long term, is a really important gap in research that could help develop new and better treatment options.”
In a new study published in the journal Science, Paz and her team helped close that gap. They identified a specific molecule in a part of the brain called the thalamus that plays a key role in secondary effects of brain injury, such as sleep disruption, epileptic activity, and inflammation. In collaboration with scientists at Annexon Biosciences, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, they also showed that an antibody treatment could prevent the development of these negative outcomes.
In particular, they found that a molecule called C1q was present at abnormally high levels in the thalamus for months after the initial injury, and these high levels were associated with inflammation, dysfunctional brain circuits, and the death of neurons.
“The thalamus seems particularly vulnerable, even after a mild traumatic brain injury,” says Stephanie Holden, PhD, first author of the study and former graduate student in Paz’s lab at Gladstone. “This doesn’t mean the cortex isn’t affected, but simply that it might have the necessary tools to recover over time. Our findings suggest that the higher levels of C1q in the thalamus could contribute to several long-term effects of brain injury.”