Experimental drug could restore memories after brain injury

New research could prove beneficial for treatment of TBI in human patients.

An experimental drug could have major implications for patients suffering from memory disabilities caused by traumatic brain injury (TBI). In tests, the drug known as ISRIB completely restored the ability to learn and remember in brain-injured mice -- even on those that were treated up to a month after injury. The findings are contrary to most research on brain trauma, which claims treatments must be carried out urgently to preserve normal function.

Although scientists have had some recent breakthroughs countering memory loss, TBI has been tougher to crack. Dozens of promising treatments have failed clinical trials, and no approved therapies are available. Currently, TBI (commonly caused by accidents, collisions, falls, and violent assaults) affects close to 2 million people every year in the US -- that boils down to one person every 21 seconds. Additionally, sports injuries (such as concussions) and military combat are other leading causes of TBI. Concerns over brain trauma have even led the army to start working on blast amor that can detect whether an explosion has hurt your brain.

As part of the latest batch of tests, researchers injected ISRIB into brain-injured mice to see whether it would improve their ability to find their way out of a water maze. Despite struggling in comparison to normal mice at first, the injured mice quickly caught up after being administered the drug. And their ability to learn persisted a week after their last injection.

Scientists are calling it a surprising, yet promising, start. They warn that many more tests must be carried out before the drug is ready to undergo clinical trials on humans.