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UNT Health Science Center's Groundbreaking Research Applied to Protecting Brain After Traumatic Injury

FORT WORTH, Texas, July 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In groundbreaking research, scientists at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth have determined that rapid estrogen administration can protect the brain following brain injury. These findings are now being tested on human trauma patients in North Texas.

James Simpkins, Ph.D., UNT Health Science Center chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience, and Jane Wigginton, M.D., Department of Surgery, Division of Emergency Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center of Dallas, are translating these animal studies of the protective effects of rapid estrogen treatment to human patients with severe traumatic brain injury and hemorrhagic shock.

"Our animal research has demonstrated that rapid estrogen intervention protects the brain following injury, including stroke or sudden cardiac arrest," Simpkins said. "Now, UT Southwestern and Parkland Health and Hospital System are advancing our research from the UNT Health Science Center to these studies in human subjects. If we can administer these drugs to trauma victims very early, I believe that we can protect the brain and increase survival."

Simpkins' studies in animals found that rapidly administering a single dose of estrogen, a strong anti-oxidant and an anti-inflammatory drug, following a stroke increases brain cell survival by up to 65 percent. Estrogens delivered intravenously post injury may have similar effects on people with traumatic brain injury. "We know these substances can protect the brain and believe them safe for use in this patient population," Simpkins said.

The clinical trials are based on now hundreds of scientific publications from Simpkins' group and others demonstrating the protective effects of estrogens in acute brain injury. Simpkins leads a large National Institutes of Health-funded program of research to discover substances that can protect the brain from injury. This is the first major clinical study to emanate from these basic science studies at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth.

Estrogens are made in large amounts by young women, but only in small amounts by men. Prior studies have suggested that young women are more resistant to brain trauma injury than are older, post-menopausal women and men. This apparent resistance of young women to brain trauma may be because of their higher estrogen levels. These current studies of the effects of rapid estrogen administration on patients with traumatic brain injury and hemorrhagic shock will be a test of this proposal.

In 1994, Simpkins discovered that estrogens were protective to nerve cells and subsequently has demonstrated that, if administered soon after brain injury in animals, estrogens can protect nerve cells and reduce neurological deficits. Application of these discoveries to human subjects awaited the interactions of Simpkins with the pioneering clinical research of Wigginton, who is now the first to take estrogens into clinical trials for acute brain injury and hemorrhagic shock.

University of North Texas Health Science Center

The University of North Texas Health Science Center comprises the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the School of Public Health, and the School of Health Professions. Key research areas include aging and Alzheimer's disease, cancer and physical medicine. This year, the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine was named a top 50 medical school in primary care by U.S. News & World Report for the eighth consecutive year. "Fort Worth's medical school and more" contributes more than $400 million to the Tarrant County and Texas economies annually. For more information, go to

SOURCE University of North Texas Health Science Center/Fort Worth
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