Even a single, mild explosion can cause brain injuries that are markedly similar to those seen in patients with Alzheimer's disease, a new study has found.
Researchers from the VA Puget Sound Health Care System and University of Washington said shock waves from even minor explosions can cause less severe immediate symptoms, such as temporary disorientation or headaches, that on the surface leave victims apparently unscathed. But such mild blasts can have similar impacts as repetitive hits endured by boxers and other athletes.
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"Some of the big questions in mild traumatic brain injury are about a molecule called tau," explained David Cook, M.D. "In many brain diseases, tau gets chemically modified to create something called 'phospho-tau.' Phospho-tau is important because it is the starting building block of 'tau tangles', which can build up over time and damage brain cells."
The Seattle team studied brain changes in rodents caused by mild blast exposure.
"We were a bit surprised to find that after only a single mild blast, phospho-tau remained elevated for at least a month," Dr. Cook noted.
He added that the findings, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, raise the possibility that early intervention may help address the impacts of such injuries.
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