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Concussion drug could reverse brain damage

A concussion drug reverses brain damage, new research suggests.

When given to mice who had recently suffered a brain injury, the medication allows the animals to navigate a maze as well as those who had not undergone such trauma, a study found.

Mice were chosen as they often react similarly to humans when suffering a blow to the head, with complications including personality change, aggression and confusion. 

The drug, known as Isrib, is thought to ‘release’ the brain, which may downplay its function after an injury to avoid using damaged cells, according to the researchers.

Although some are excited by Isrib’s development as a treatment option, others argue the drug’s effectiveness is unclear as it is in its early development stages and has only been tested on animals to date.

A concussion drug reverses brain damage, new research suggests (stock image)


A simple saliva test could determine rugby players’ risk of concussion at the side of the pitch.

Previous studies have shown urine samples collected immediately after collisions provide an accurate indicator of head injuries.

If the upcoming trial is successful, a device could be available that immediately diagnoses concussion in as little as two years, according to the study’s lead researcher from the University of Birmingham.

The lack of a reliable concussion test is considered a substantial challenge in treating such injuries.

Past research demonstrates concussion occurs as often as every six rugby games and accounts for around 25 per cent of the sports’ injuries. 

How the research was carried out 

Researchers from the University of California in San Francisco gave brain-damaged mice Isrib one month after they suffered a head injury.

Mice were included in the experiment as they tend to react similarly to humans after receiving a blow to the head.

Reactions often include an impaired ability to form new memories, personality change, aggression, confusion and difficulty navigating new surroundings. 

‘We can flick a reset button and make their behavior indistinguishable’ 

Results reveal mice given Isrib are able to navigate a maze just as well as those who did not suffer a head injury.

Study author Peter Walker said: ‘We can flick a reset button and make their behavior indistinguishable from uninjured animals,’ The Times reported.

The researchers believe head injuries create a stress response in the brain that ‘shuts down’ damaged cells. 

They add this may have been an advantage during human’s hunter-gatherer stage when it was better to be sedate while their mental capacities returned.

Yet, in some instances, complete brain function never returns. 

Isrib ‘breaks this response – it releases the brain,’ Mr Walker added.

Yet, Hannah Wilson, from The Drake Foundation, which analyzes sports concussions, cautions the drug is in its early development stages and has only been tested on animals to date.

Ramon Diaz-Arrastia from the University of Pennsylvania, however, is excited by the drug as a therapy option, saying ‘trying to rehabilitate people who are disabled and are often so badly off they are unable to work costs a lot of money’.

The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.