HOUSTON (Aug. 23, 2012) A nanoparticle developed at Rice University and tested in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) may bring great benefits to the emergency treatment of brain-injury victims, even those with mild injuries.
Combined polyethylene glycol-hydrophilic carbon clusters (PEG-HCC), already being tested to enhance cancer treatment, are also adept antioxidants. In animal studies, injections of PEG-HCC during initial treatment after an injury helped restore balance to the brain's vascular system.
The results were reported this month in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano.
A PEG-HCC infusion that quickly stabilizes blood flow in the brain would be a significant advance for emergency care workers and battlefield medics, said Rice chemist and co-author James Tour.
"This might be a first line of defense against reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are always overstimulated during a medical trauma, whether that be to an accident victim or an injured soldier," said Tour, Rice's T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science. "They're certainly exacerbated when there's trauma with massive blood loss."
In a traumatic brain injury, cells release an excessive amount of an ROS known as superoxide (SO) into the blood. Superoxides are toxic free radicals, molecules with one unpaired electron, that the immune system normally uses to kill invading microorganisms. Healthy organisms balance SO with superoxide dismutase (SOD), an enzyme that neutralizes it. But even mild brain trauma can release superoxides at levels that overwhelm the brain's natural defenses.
"Superoxide is the most deleterious of the reactive oxygen species, as it's the progenitor of many of the others," Tour said. "If you don't deal with SO, it forms peroxynitrite and hydrogen peroxide. SO is the upstream precursor to many of the
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