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Genetics Influences Functional Outcomes After Traumatic Brain Injury

Two male healthcare providers discuss notes in clinical setting.

Pei-Ying Chuang, Yvette P. Conley, Samuel M. Poloyac, David O. Okonkwo, Dianxu Ren, Paula R. Sherwood, Marilyn Hravnak, Sheila A. Alexander. "Neuroglobin Genetic Polymorphisms and Their Relationship to Functional Outcomes after Traumatic Brain Injury" Journal of Neurotrauma. June 2010, 27(6): 999-1006. doi:10.1089/neu.2009.1129.

  • Over 5 million Americans are currently living with long-term or life-long disability as a result of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
  • Much of the damage to the brain that occurs after a TBI results from decreased oxygen supply and blood flow to the brain cells.
  • Previous research in animals has shown that neuroglobin, a protein which binds oxygen and is found in nerve cells, may protect brain cells immediately after TBI.
  • However, little is known about whether or how this protein may protect humans.
  • In this study, researchers explored the relationship between genetic variations of the gene NGB (the gene that codes for neuroglobin) and functional outcomes over two years in a group of patients who had experienced severe TBI.
  • The study found that individuals with a particular NGB gene variant showed significantly better post-TBI functional outcomes, as measured by two standard rating scales: Glasgow Outcomes Score (GOS) and the Disability Rankings Scale (DRS).
  • These results suggest that neuroglobin may play a role in recovery from severe TBI in humans. Scientists theorize that during periods of oxygen deprivation (such as during stroke) neuroglobin helps blood cells detoxify and utilize oxygen thereby preventing secondary brain damage.
  • The variation in the NGB gene found to be associated with functional outcomes in this study codes for the portion of neuroglobin that binds oxygen, suggesting several possible mechanisms by which neuroglobin may influence brain recovery.

Dr. Pei-Ying Chuang, previously with the Acute/Tertiary Care Department School of Nursing University of Pittsburgh, is now a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the NINR Intramural Research Program. NINR funds this research project: Genetics of Recovery After Brain Injury with Principal Investigator, Dr. Yvette Conley of the University of Pittsburgh.

Funding Sources:
R01NR008424/NR/NINR NIH HHS/United States
R01NR04801/NR/NINR NIH HHS/United States
P50NS30318/NS/NINDS NIH HHS/United States

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