Treatment with xenon gas after a head injury reduces the extent of brain damage, according to a study in mice.
Head injury is the leading cause of death and disability in people aged under 45 in developed countries, mostly resulting from falls and road accidents. The primary injury caused by the initial mechanical force is followed by a secondary injury which develops in the hours and days afterwards. This secondary injury is largely responsible for patients’ mental and physical disabilities, but there are currently no drug treatments that can be given after the accident to stop it from occurring.
Scientists at Imperial College London found that xenon, given within hours of the initial injury, limits brain damage and improves neurological outcomes in mice, both in the short term and long term. The findings, published in the journal Critical Care Medicine, could lead to clinical trials of xenon as a treatment for head injury in humans.
Although xenon is chemically inert, this does not mean it is biologically inactive. Xenon has been known to have general anaesthetic properties since the 1950s. Previous studies at Imperial have found that xenon can protect brain cells from mechanical injury in the lab, but this new study is the first time such an effect has been shown in live animals, a vital step before any new treatments can be tested in humans.
The Latest on: Brain damage
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