A study led by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine showed blast exposure produces inflammation, oxidative stress and gene activation patterns similar to those seen in a number of brain disorders, a university release said Wednesday.
Blast-induced traumatic brain injury (TBI) has become an important issue in combat casualty care but MRI scans and other conventional imaging technology do not show overt damage to the brain in many cases of mild TBI, the researchers said.
"Our research reveals that despite the lack of a lot of obvious neuronal death, there is a lot of molecular madness going on in the brain after a blast exposure," Patrick Kochanek, Pitt professor of critical care medicine said. "Even subtle injuries resulted in significant alterations of brain chemistry."
Experiments using rats showed gene activity patterns, which shifted over time, resembled patterns seen in neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer's, he said.
"It appears that although the neurons don't die after a mild injury, they do sustain damage," Kochanek said. "It remains to be seen what multiple exposures, meaning repeat concussions, do to the brain over the long term."
The study results have been published in the Journal of Neurotrauma.
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