Concussions are more than just a bruised brain…

Functional MD’s like myself often find ourselves in the realm of medical concepts like methylomics, transcriptomics, and genomes when we are researching ways to alleviate our patient’s suffering.  In searching for personalized therapy modalities for my patients, I find myself reading the latest research on a variety of issues. One research topic of late has received much attention in part due to the number of sports stars dealing with neurodegenerative symptoms after head injuries.  These symptoms are now known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and thousands are coming forward for treatment. In todays’ highlighted study, researchers are uncovering the serious implications of a concussion. These injuries are far more complex than just a “bruised brain”(a term I have used in the past) and deserve much more serious consideration – as the growing number of people with chronic traumatic encephalopathy will tell you.  

The diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy encompasses the ongoing and long-term brain damage after a physical head trauma.  Recent studies indicate that in some genetically predisposed persons even one concussion can lead to life-long symptoms and with each concussion the odds of serious problems grow. In this particular study, researchers have provided an intriguing window into the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying concussions.   

By inducing concussions in rats, the researchers in this study observed and then evaluated various genetic and metabolic changes in the brain tissue. Regarding methylomics, they measured how methyl group markers in different parts of different genes changed after the trauma.  These methyl groups are little chemical markers that when present turn down or turn off the transcription necessary to make a certain protein for the body. They found that after trauma some genes had more methyl groups and some had less. Interestingly, many of these same genes are implicated in other neurodegenerative diseases.  

They also found changes in transcriptomics.  Transcription is how a gene is turned into an actual functioning protein. Adding “omics” to the word just means one is looking at how a large group of genes are transcribed in different amounts.  In general, different cells produce different transcriptomic patterns. In the trauma affected rats, the amount of proteins produced by different genes changed in various directions. When corresponding human genes were considered, the resulting proteins were ones potentially linked with chronic brain injury.  

What does all this mean?   It appears that brains which experience concussions don’t just simply bruise and recover.  The molecular mechanism cascade taking place after a concussion produces inflammation and sets in motion potentially long-term harmful effects.  For this reason, at Sanctuary Functional Medicine we treat concussions with anti-inflammatories and other therapies that appear to lead to more rapid and complete restoration of function.  For those with concussions that occurred years ago, we utilize similar therapies to bring about as much restoration as God allows. Hopefully, further research will uncover even more useful understanding resulting in therapies for my patient’s dealing with chronic traumatic encephalopathy.  Until then, we look forward to helping as many as we can using the evidenced-based functional medicine approach.



Volume 16, February 2017, Pages 184-194

Traumatic Brain Injury Induces Genome-Wide Transcriptomic, Methylomic, and Network Perturbations in Brain and Blood Predicting Neurological Disorders

Author links open overlay panelQingyingMengaYumeiZhuangaZheYingaRahulAgrawalaXiaYangaFernandoGomez-Pinillaab


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