Brain Injury May Be an Autoimmune Phenomenon Similar to Multiple Sclerosis

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Researchers believe that repeated head injuries lead to neurological disorders. A recent study involving 67 football players examined the reason for this cause and effect relationship and suggests that damage to the blood-brain barrier and the resulting autoimmune response contribute to the onset of neurological disorders.

This research could eventually lead to the development of a vaccine to prevent damage to the brain as a result of head trauma. The blood-brain barrier is the only barrier of its kind in the human body; it holds in proteins and other molecules that help the brain function and remain healthy. When the barrier is damaged or broken, proteins pass through the barrier and enter the bloodstream. is a protein that is often released through this blood-brain barrier after injury. It was present in the bloodstream of the football players who participated in the study when their blood was taken after games.

The researchers noted that the human body treats S100B like a virus. When antibodies are able to access the brain through the damaged blood-brain barrier, they attack healthy brain tissue and contribute to the development of autoimmune disease. A similar pattern is visible in multiple sclerosis patients. The researchers hope this finding will enable them to reduce the effects of brain injury in the future.

Nicola Marchi, et al. Consequences of Repeated Blood-Brain Barrier Disruption in Football Players. PLoS ONE. (March 2013).