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With Amino Acid Diet, Mice Improve After Brain Injury
Date:12/8/2009

- May Set Stage for Treating Brain Damage in People -

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Neurology researchers have shown that feeding amino acids to brain-injured animals restores their cognitive abilities and may set the stage for the first effective treatment for cognitive impairments suffered by people with traumatic brain injuries.

"We have shown in an animal model that dietary intervention can restore a proper balance of neurochemicals in the injured part of the brain, and simultaneously improves cognitive performance," said study leader Akiva S. Cohen, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The study appeared Dec. 7 in the online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

If these results in mice can be translated to human medicine, there would be a broad clinical benefit. Every 23 seconds, a man, woman or child in the United States suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The primary cause of death and disability in children and young adults, TBI also accounts for permanent disabilities in more than 5 million Americans. The majority of those cases are from motor vehicle injuries, along with a rising incidence of battlefield casualties.

Although physicians can relieve the dangerous swelling that occurs after a TBI, there are currently no treatments for the underlying brain damage that brings in its wake cognitive losses in memory, learning and other functions.

The animals in the current study received a cocktail of three branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), specifically leucine, isoleucine and valine, in their drinking water. Previous researchers had shown that people with severe brain injuries showed mild functional improvements after receiving BCAAs through an intravenous line.

BCAAs are crucial precursors of two neurotransmitters -- glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, whic
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SOURCE The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
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