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Medicine Science

Bomb Blasts Alter Brain Lipid Levels 105

Posted by timothy
from the easily-treated-with-peanut-butter dept.
MTorrice writes "About 320,000 soldiers returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have struggled with neurological problems associated with traumatic brain injury, according to the Rand Corporation. Some veterans experience symptoms, such as memory loss and anxiety, without noticeable physical signs of brain injury. Now researchers report a possible chemical signature: Levels of a certain lipid spike in the brains of mice exposed to mild explosions (abstract; full article paywalled). This lipid could serve as a way to diagnose people who are at risk of developing neurological disorders after a blast, the scientists say."
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Bomb Blasts Alter Brain Lipid Levels

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  • The government says we should be able to live a content and productive life with only a partially functional brain.
    • Cerebral lipid increase? Those guys are a bunch of fat heads.

      Saving the American way of Life in Afghanistan. ;-)

    • Thats all you need to be able to sign up to the military in the first place. :P

      Mind you since many US politicians are ex-military it does explain an awful lot.....

  • by Kelbear (870538) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @01:42PM (#42658715)

    But I imagine the researchers barely restraining their smirks after submitting a proposal to blow up mice as their study.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe Jamie, Adam, Kari and Grant can donate their brains to science to see if they show the same markers. It would make a great series finale!

  • by idontgno (624372) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @01:44PM (#42658753) Journal
    Maybe as a routine locker room procedure for impact and contact sports like football (either kind). It would beat the current "3rd concussion, you're in the injured reserve" regime, especially if it picks up sub-symptomatic TBI.
    • by idontgno (624372)

      Correction: it's not currently a blood test, it's:

      ...matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging. The technique detects the types of proteins and lipids at each point in a tissue slice, allowing the scientists to produce a chemical map of the animals' brains.

      So currently, you have to cut out the brain and slice it up to scan it. As it stands, not very helpful as a diagnostic.

      I hope they can do some kind of minimally-invasive test with this. It might be possible:

      Because the team obs

      • It's possible that you could tune MRI signals to pick up a particular form of lipid. Certainly, different MRI interrogation techniques [plosone.org] can show lipid rich and lipid poor areas.

        Although homogenizing football players has a certain visceral charm.

        • by rs79 (71822)

          "Moreover, these changes were accompanied by depletion of ceramides."

          What happens if you put them back?

          That is, two things seem to happen. An increase in ganglioside GM2 and depletion of ceramides.

          In very rough terms overproduction of something tends to work itself out if the stimulus is mitigated. That is, if a bomb was going off every day and GM2 was constantly being produced, I'd worry, but a one time increase? Let's assume that goes away over time.

          The depletion of of something is more interesting I thi

          • The 'feedstocks' for the lipids and what have you are probably there (although you have to deal with the blood-brain barrier). It's the cellular mechanisms to fix the damaged areas that seem to be lacking or at least don't do such a good job. It's going to be much harder than feeding salmon to shell shocked mice.

            • by rs79 (71822)

              " It's going to be much harder than feeding salmon to shell shocked mice."

              Because you've tried this?

              Or are you guessing?

              I don't think mice like salmon and would probably try flax seed. Cheap and easy test to run though, no?

              • No, I have not tried to bomb the local mouse population and get back karma points by feeding them salmon. The bears would go after the salmon anyway.

                My point is that feeding an organism with a blood brain barrier a building block substance is unlikely to get the chemical where and when you want it. There are hundreds of steps along the way. In addition, things like phospholipids and steroids are easily created internally and assuming the animal is reasonably well fed, giving additional precursors won't h

                • But you are correct. It's something that could be tested.

                  YOU go blow up the mouses. I'll watch.

                • by rs79 (71822)

                  The problem with this line of thinking is it assumes perfectly healthy 100% efficient cells.

                  But that's not always the case. This is why older people need to take vitamins, as we age our cells become less efficient and we have to supply a bit more. I didn't get this from the "vitamin and supplement" industry it's in the book the biochemist who discovered 2 of the B vitamins wrote.

                  • by rs79 (71822)

                    Additionally there are other mechanisms. Take a dozen peaches, peel them and put them in a baggie in the freezer. Thaw them out a week later. Notice they're al brown? Now do the same thing but add vitamin C to them as anybody would who followed the recipe in the book. Now notice when you thaw them out they're the original color. That haven't oxidized.

                    The same thing happens in animal bodies, so it's not always the matter of supplying an essential molecule hoping a reaction will take place, sometimes you can

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @01:49PM (#42658823) Journal

    Given how vital lipids are to proper brain function(cellular function generally; but nerve tissue has tons of the things even by comparison to other tissues), it seems like a very ominous sign that blast trauma too minor to cause injuries visible even with an optical microscope causes noticeable changes in the lipids floating around... Even if the neural network isn't structurally disrupted at a visible scale, interference with lipids involved in chemical or electrical nerve signalling would still cause changes in how the network functions(since the characteristics of the paths are still changing, even if connections aren't being severed outright).

    • The abstract mentions that this is the first time anyone's seen a GM2 reaction in mice due to an external stimulus. I'm curious - how much do we know about brain lipid levels? Are they generally static, or do they vary with age, disease, mood, diet, etc.?
      • I'm sure that we know less than we would like to(since invasive chemical sampling of the brain isn't really an option in humans except after death or in exceptional cases, and even in animals you can chop up whenever you want the brain is absurdly complex); but it probably helps that GM2 is also associated with Tay-Sachs disease, so at least there has been some incentive, in the form of a fairly rare but dramaticly unpleasant human disease, to explore GM2 and associated processes.

        Given that there is

      • by vlm (69642)

        WRT vary with age, its kind of important to note the study sliced and diced at 2 hrs, 24 hrs, and 72 hrs... not like a decade later or whatever. So they did an acute study not a chronic study like most /.ers seem to assume. So... 2 hours after getting whacked in the head, you're whacked in the head... I was getting the impression from /. comments that this persisted for "a long time" but apparently not.

      • There are many types of lipids involved with the nervous system, and a wide variety of disorders associated with abnormal levels. For example, the neurological problems often seen in severe vitamin deficiencies can usually be traced to the roles vitamins play as cofactors in lipid metabolism. Problems with lipid transport and breakdown are thought to play important roles in many neurodegenerative diseases- for example, vcertain ariants of a protein involved in lipid transport called apoliprotein E are assoc

  • one of the neatest recent developments in treating traumatic brain injuries is the finding that the human hormone progesterone [perfectprogesterone.com] dramatically improves the survival chances and outcomes of humans who sustain a traumatic brain injury [nytimes.com]. As someone who doesn't remember a 2-week period following a concussion/near drowning at the lake some 13 years ago, I wonder what my experience would have been like had my doctors known about this use for Progesterone USP.

    Progesterone is the body's most important steroid hormone,

  • Some veterans experience symptoms, such as memory loss and anxiety, without noticeable physical signs of brain injury.

    I would think most people would suffer memory loss and anxiety (among many other concomitant symptoms) after experiencing round after round of painfully loud explosions, watching their buddies get blown apart and having to kill other human beings, simply due to the unbearably intense psychological strain. Looking at it as purely a physical matter seems to be missing the point a bit. Is phys

    • I would think most people would suffer memory loss and anxiety (among many other concomitant symptoms) after experiencing round after round of painfully loud explosions, watching their buddies get blown apart and having to kill other human beings, simply due to the unbearably intense psychological strain. Looking at it as purely a physical matter seems to be missing the point a bit. Is physicality causing the mental stress, or is the causation the reverse?

      What makes you think that 'psychological stress', isn't physical at it's root? Unless you are proponent of some magical soul property, there have to be physical actions within the brain that trigger what we 'feel'.

    • by tibman (623933)

      Because when soldiers are exposed to the same levels of stress and death but minus brain shaking explosions they don't have these kinds of problems. The guys who get blown up just aren't right in the head anymore.

  • This lipid could serve as a way to diagnose people who are at risk of developing neurological disorders after a blast, the scientists say.

    No, the paper doesn't say that. I checked. It's also not true; this can't be used for diagnosis (except maybe post-mortem), because it's on the wrong side of the skull.

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      This lipid could serve as a way to diagnose people who are at risk of developing neurological disorders after a blast, the scientists say.

      No, the paper doesn't say that. I checked. It's also not true; this can't be used for diagnosis (except maybe post-mortem), because it's on the wrong side of the skull.

      By wrong side of the skull, I assume you mean because it's on the inside. I mean, if the lipids were on the outside, it would be obvious were the damage was. :)

  • ...but damn it made me chuckle to think about spending my day in a lab "exposing rodents to minor explosions".

    Hell, I pretty much did that research throughout the 6th grade. Amphibians as well.

  • So, PTSD may be half physical brain damage?

  • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @03:43PM (#42660141)

    Seems like a bomb blast would alter the level of everything in the brain. Of course, those levels should stabilize within a few seconds, with final values determined by the heights of the surfaces they land on.

  • by arisvega (1414195) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @04:15PM (#42660485)
    Who would have thought!
  • One of the bizarre research results is that cooling of the brain after a concussion or explosion, can actually prevent most of this damage.

    Various DARPA studies are underway.

    "Sarge, Corporal Potter got an IED hit!"

    "Pop an ice pack on his head and call the medic, Corporal".

  • Why is this on /. instead of /r/politics?
    • by rs79 (71822)

      Because it's biochemistry nor politics? Is this a trick question?

  • Is it just bombs? What if firing guns at a gun range does it too?

    Anxiety leads to depression which leads to anger which leads to violence.

    Could it be possible that shooting guns recreationally messes up the biochemistry of peoples heads with any number of negative possible outcomes?

  • Now researchers report a possible chemical signature: Levels of a certain lipid spike in the brains of mice exposed to mild explosions

    Maybe mild explosions like one experiences from the repeated firing of assualt style rifles inches from one's skull while using extend capacity clips?

  • TFA discusses traumatic brain injury (TBI), which reminded me of another FA that I read a while ago about detecting TBI with MRI machines.

    Two guys, Dr. Walter Schneider and Dr. David Onkonwo, are using MRI to identify neural tracts throughout the brain. Their new technique, HDFT, is able to visualize the brain's wiring, and it can identify where the wiring has been broken.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57389325-10391704/new-technology-could-change-how-traumatic-brain-injuries-are-diagnosed/ [cbsnews.com]

  • So it has only taken 99 years to come up with an explanation for what was bleeding obvious since WWI. Shell shock is nothing new.

  • Lipid test to renew

    drivers license.

    purchase condoms

    obtain a marriage license.

    obtain a passport

    obtain entrance to the no fly list.

    and more ....

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