NIH-funded study suggests specific cells and genes may be potential treatment targets.

Traumatic head injury can have widespread effects in the brain, but now scientists can look in real time at how head injury affects thousands of individual cells and genes simultaneously in mice. This approach could lead to precise treatments for traumatic brain injury (TBI). The study, reported in Nature Communications, was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Instead of clustering responses according to categories of cells in TBI, we can now see how individual cells in those groups react to head injury.
Patrick Bellgowan, Ph.D., program director at NINDS.

University of California, Los Angeles professors Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, Ph.D. and Xia Yang, Ph.D., along with their colleagues, used a novel method known as Drop-seq to closely look at individual brain cells in the hippocampus, a region involved in learning and memory, after TBI or in uninjured control animals. Drop-seq allows thousands of cells and genes to be analyzed simultaneously. Its creation was in part funded by the NIH’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

These tools provide us with unprecedented precision to pinpoint exactly which cells and genes to target with new therapies. Another important aspect to this study was the highly collaborative and multidisciplinary nature of the work. Lots of people, from many different scientific areas, made this study possible.
Dr. Yang
We now know the secret life of single cells, including how they coordinate with other cells and how vulnerable they are to injury. In addition, seeing which types of genes, including genes involved in metabolism, were involved across many cell types helps identify processes that may be critical in TBI.  
Dr. Gomez-Pinilla

Future studies will examine how TBI affects cells in areas other than the hippocampus. In addition, more research is needed to learn about long-term effects of TBI. Analyzing individual cells and genes may identify potential therapies for TBI.

 

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