By Lauren Hoskin, intern at the Society of Biology
This week, 13th-19th May, a campaign is being launched to highlight the hidden aspects of brain injury and help with the correct diagnosis of these potentially terminal conditions. The campaign is part of Action for Brain Injury (ABI) week, organised by Headway.
Brain injury is an umbrella-term for a number of conditions, including brain trauma, stroke and brain tumours. These conditions can often go unnoticed externally, yet are extremely damaging internally. It is therefore vital that GPs correctly diagnose brain injury and offer appropriate support and guidance to patients.
Exciting new treatments are available for brain injuries, often developed through research using animals. One example is cancer treatment using viruses, which has particular potential for the treatment of brain tumours because many can’t be operated on.
The brain is protected from infection by a tightly sealed barrier. This fortunately guards against the entry of bacteria and viruses, but also makes it very difficult for drugs to enter.
To overcome this problem, scientists have developed cancer-zapping viruses which can be hidden inside neural stem cells. The cells automatically migrate towards tumours and are able to breach the barrier. Once they reach the brain tumour, the viruses are released and the cancer cells are killed.
A separate body that demonstrates the importance of animal research, Understanding Animal Research (UAR), has produced new material for ABI Week to highlight the vital role of animal research in improving medical treatments for these conditions.
Currently, animal research is particularly important in finding novel treatments since it is not possible to reconstruct this kind of complex diseases in cell cultures or computer models. As a result, it is unavoidable to use animals to gain a better understanding of the complicated processes involved.
Aside from the seriousness of this week, Headway is also running a Hats4Headway day. They are encouraging everyone to wear large, silly hats on Friday 17th of May to raise awareness of ABI week as well as fundraise for this important issue. Get involved!
Ahmed, A., Thaci, B., Alexiades, N., Han, Y., Qian, S., Liu, F., Balyasnikova, I., Ulasov, I., Aboody, K., & Lesniak, M. (2011). Neural Stem Cell-based Cell Carriers Enhance Therapeutic Efficacy of an Oncolytic Adenovirus in an Orthotopic Mouse Model of Human Glioblastoma Molecular Therapy, 19 (9), 1714-1726 DOI: 10.1038/mt.2011.100