Researchers have identified a new mechanism that spreads brain inflammation after a traumatic injury, which could transform future treatment. 

Previous research has found neuroinflammation often continues for years after a traumatic brain injury, contributing to chronic brain injury. 

Now, four researchers at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine have identified microparticles that may play an important role in the process. 

The researchers, whose findings have been published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation, studied mice and found those with a traumatic brain injury had higher levels of these microparticles in their blood. They traced these microparticles to immune cells common in the brain and found the cells often work hard to fix an injury but in doing so can become destructive rather than protective. 

The research suggests levels of microparticles in a patient’s blood could help indicate the severity of a brain injury, which is often difficult for medical staff to do, and therefore guide future treatment. 

The researchers found exposing these microparticles to a compound called PEG-TB could neutralise them, sparking hope that the same compound could be used to treat a brain injury or even neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. 

While the research is in its early stages, Gwen Kirby-Dent, a senior serious injury and clinical negligence solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors, welcomed the news. 

“During the course of my career, I have spent time with countless brain injury survivors and their families,” she said. “Aside from the immediate, catastrophic impact these injuries have, survivors often face complex, long-term problems that can affect their relationships, their personality and capacity to return to their pre-accident life. 

“We hope the findings of this exciting research will be quickly followed up with appropriate funding being made available. 

“In the meantime, it remains imperative that people who suffer brain injuries are able to quickly access the specialist rehabilitation and support they need to regain control over their lives.”