Head injuries from auto accidents, falls, construction accidents, and other causes must always be taken seriously. Accident victims should seek immediate medical attention if they suspect they have suffered a head injury because the symptoms may be delayed even though the injury may already be present. Traumatic brain injuries, and other head injuries, often cause long-term physical pain, emotional difficulties, and cognitive challenges.
Prior studies indicated a possible connection between a head injury and an increased risk of cancer. A new study has identified a possible mechanism that explains that connection – involving genetic mutations acting together with inflammation of brain tissue changing the ways cells behave – causing them to become cancerous.
How the study of injuries on mice and their relation to tumors was conducted
The study was conducted by the University College London’s (UCL) Cancer Institute. According to Neuroscience News, Professor Simona Parrinello, Head of the Samantha Dickson Brain Cancer Unit and co-lead of the Cancer Research UK Brain Tumor Center of Excellence led the study. The work, which was published in the journal Current Biology, “provides an important molecular understanding” of how brain trauma can contribute to the development of glioma. Glioma is a growth of cells that starts in the brain or spinal cord, and as a glioma grows it forms a tumor, or a mass of cells.
The study aimed to show if the combination of a brain injury and astrocytes (a cell of the central nervous system) could cause tumors. According to Neuroscience News, young adult mice (with a brain injury) were injected “with a substance which permanently labeled astrocytes in red and knocked out the function of a gene called p53—known to have a vital role in suppressing many different cancers. A control group was treated the same way, but the p53 gene was left intact.”
Another group of mice who did not have a brain injury also had their p53 gene inactivated.
Professor Parrinello said that astrocytes (they take their names from stars) are normally highly branched. The research study found that without the p53 gene (and only after injury), the astrocytes became more rounded – they’d retracted their branches. The researchers then let the mice age. When the scientists looked at the cells again, they observed that the cells “had completely reverted to a stem-like state with markers of early glioma cells that could divide.”
Professor Parrinello and her team reasoned that “mutations in certain genes synergized with brain inflammation, which is induced by acute injury, and then increases over time during the natural process of aging, to make astrocytes more likely to initiate a cancer.”
The movement to stem-cell-like behavior accelerated when the mice were injected with a solution known to cause inflammation.
The results of the study on humans
The researchers then examined the electronic medical records of more than 20,000 people who were diagnosed with head injuries and compared their rate of brain cancer with a control group matched for age, sex, and socioeconomic status.
Professor Parrinello and her team found that, after an injury, the combination of the existing mutations and the head injury can interact – possibly causing more serious complications. The scientists found that people who “experienced a head injury were up to four times more likely to develop a brain cancer later in life, than those without head trauma.” The professor added that basal inflammation in “young” brains is low enough that even after a serious brain injury, the mutations should be held in check. The implication is that serious brain injuries in older people could have a higher risk of complications.
There is one important caveat, states Neuroscience News. The risk of developing brain cancer is quite low, “estimated at less than 1% over a lifetime, so even after an injury the risk remains modest.”
Compensation for brain injuries
Our Atlanta traumatic brain injury lawyers have obtained some of the highest settlements and verdicts in the state. In one case, a Gwinnett County jury awarded $30.5 million to a mother and her child who was born severely and permanently brain-damaged because of medical malpractice.
We demand compensation for all of the victim’s current and future medical bills, pain and suffering, a decrease in the quality of life, and many other types of damages. Head trauma victims often need medical care for the rest of their life. As the research study shows, there is new evidence that some victims’ lives may even be cut short due to cancer caused by an accident.
At Harris Lowry Manton LLP, our Atlanta personal injury lawyers handle any type of accident that causes head trauma, including car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and fall, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse, product defects, and other accidents. We’ll work with your medical team to understand the full scope of your injuries. To discuss your right to compensation after an Atlanta accident, call us or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation.
One of the nation’s top trial attorneys, Jeff Harris is an award-winning litigator who handles high-profile, complex cases across a wide variety of practice areas. He excels at securing justice for clients who have been seriously injured or killed, holding responsible parties accountable for their actions as well as their negligence.
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