Diabetes drug minimizes damage in traumatic brain injury

Scientists have discovered that a diabetes drug significantly minimizes damage in traumatic train injury, according to Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel.

Researchers at TAU and the National Institute of Aging in the US found that Exendin-4, an FDA-approved diabetes drug, can minimize trauma when administered shortly following an accident.

Mice subjected to explosions

The researchers studied the effects of controlled explosions on laboratory mice. Behavioral and physical tests showed that the mice exposed to the blast had severely impaired brain function compared to the control group.

However, the mice that had received Exendin-4 within an hour after the blast had brain function similar to the control group. This proved that Exendin-4 significantly reduced the long-term damage done by an explosion.

TBI can cause long-term damage

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, causes long-term damage by changing brain chemistry, according to TAU.

Anything from a car accident to an explosion can cause TBI. In the case of an explosion, increased pressure followed by an intense vacuum shakes the fluid inside the brain.

This damages the brain's structure and cannot be reversed. However, treatment through therapy or medication can help.

Professor Chaim Pick of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine said that this promising discovery can help researchers develop effective medications to minimize the impact of TBI.

“We are moving in the right direction. Now we need to find the right dosage and delivery system, then build a cocktail of drugs that will increase the therapeutic value of this concept,” said Pick.

Protective effects of diabetes drugs
Exendin-4 has also been found to protect neurons in neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease, said TAU.

The diabetes drug metformin can have protective side effects as well.

Research in 2010 by the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Germany has found that the commonly prescribed diabetes drug metformin counteracts the changes in nerve cells that cause Alzheimer's disease.

Metformin protects the heart as well. University of Gothenburg scientists in Sweden showed in 2012 that metformin helps increase pumping capacity, improve energy balance, reduce the accumulation of fat, and limit the loss of heart cells.

Despite such findings, diabetes drugs can have negative side effects for people with heart disease and kidney failure.

The findings were published in the journal Experimental Neurology.

Sources: Tel Aviv University

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