Department of Defense grant supports study of potential treatment for traumatic brain injuries

College of Medicine – Tucson researchers will lead a clinical trial examining one hormone’s ability to reduce impairments following traumatic brain injury.
Researchers at the University of Arizona Health Sciences were awarded a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to investigate a potential treatment for brain impairments resulting from traumatic brain injury, or TBI.

Researchers led by principal investigator and trauma surgeon Bellal Joseph, MD, Martin Gluck Professor of Surgery and chief of the Division of Trauma, Surgical Critical Care, Burns and Acute Care Surgery in the Department of Surgery at the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson, are starting a four-year clinical trial to investigate the effectiveness of angiotensin 1-7, a peptide hormone that widens blood vessels and has anti-inflammatory properties, as a potential treatment for TBI.

The inflammatory reaction following TBI is thought to be a key underlying driver for the long-term effects of TBI.

In prior preclinical studies, UArizona researchers found that peptides including angiotensin 1-7 are effective at protecting brain function and decreasing brain inflammation. In addition, these drugs improve brain blood flow, showing great promise for treating cognitive impairment caused by TBI and other inflammation-related brain diseases such as vascular dementia.

A wide range of neuroprotective agents or strategies to address the neuropsychological and memory impairments resulting from TBI have been tested in clinical trials, though none have been shown to produce improved outcomes. Angiotensin 1-7 could offer the first effective neuroprotective agent to address the increased structural damage and physiological alteration of neurological function such as persistent problems with memory, attention span and executive function that can result from moderate to severe TBI.

“It is an honor to receive this funding from the Department of Defense,” said Joseph, who is collaborating with UArizona researchers with expertise in physiology, psychiatry, pharmacology, biostatistics and biomedical engineering. “Our research is built on strong preclinical evidence, interdisciplinary foundation, and a team committed to delivering impactful outcomes that can transform the field of traumatic brain injury treatment. This collaboration will enable us to gain a comprehensive understanding of traumatic brain injury and develop an innovative treatment strategy.”

The research team includes: Meredith Hay, PhD, professor of physiology and member of the BIO5 Institute; Todd Vanderah, PhD,  Regents Professor and department head of the College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Pharmacology, director of the Comprehensive Pain and Addiction Center and BIO5 Institute member; Lee Ryan, PhD, professor and head of the College of Science’s Department of Psychology and director of the Cognition and Neuroimaging LaboratoryG. Alex Hishaw, MD, associate professor of neurologyNan-kuei Chen, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering and BIO5 Institute member; Chiu-Hsieh Hsu, PhD, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public HealthAbdul Tawab Saljuqi, MD, DrPH, MPH, assistant director of research in the Department of Surgery; and Robin Carlson, PhD, clinical research manager of trauma in the Department of Surgery.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year an estimated 1.7 million people experience a TBI, with some of the most common risk factors including falls, especially in young children and older adults, contact sports, involvement in combat by soldiers, transportation accidents, and physical abuse.

Phil Villarreal
Office of Communications, University of Arizona Health Sciences


Posted in AZBio News.