Traumatic brain injury (TBI) often leads to devastating results not because of the initial blow to the head, but instead because of the inflammatory processes that follow as a consequence of the hit. Thus, preventing or slowing the inflammation that occurs after the trauma to the head can vastly improve patient outcomes. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has been shown in animal models to reduce this inflammation and thereby protect the brain from significant damage. Now, scientists help clarify exactly how HBOT has this advantageous effect on the brain. This new research was recently published in the journal Neuroimmunomodulation.
The scientists used four groups of mice: one without injury and without HBOT, one without injury with HBOT, one with TBI without HBOT, and one with TBI with HBOT. They expected that the final group, which had both TBI and the HBOT intervention would show significant differences in performance and in physiology before and after the treatment, whereas the other groups tested at different time points would not show these differences.
As expected, the researchers found that HBOT led to better motor performance and lower brain swelling, known as edema, in the group of mice that had TBI. After HBOT, these mice also had lower protein expression of elements that contribute to inflammation. Specifically, the expression of inflammasome components, IL-1b, IL-18, and high-mobility group box 1 were all reduced by HBOT following TBI.
These findings corroborate previous findings that HBOT is a beneficial intervention for TBI and help explain exactly how HBOT confers its positive impact on a traumatically injured brain. Future research will help identify the best ways to use this therapy to help patients who suffer trauma to the head.
Geng, F., Ma, Y., Xing, T., Zhuang, X., Zhu, J., & Yao, L. (2016). Effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on inflammasome signaling after traumatic brain injury. Neuroimmunomodulation. DOI: 10.1159/000445689