A new study conducted by a research team at Children's National Hospital examined how the body’s internal clock promotes traumatic brain injury (TBI) recovery. Researchers discovered a type of brain cell called NG2-glia that can renew itself and is regulated by circadian rhythms. The findings published in eNeuro emphasize the importance of addressing circadian disturbances during the healing stage after brain injury. Circadian rhythm disturbances are common in neurologic disorders across the lifespan and TBI.
The circadian clock dictates that many of the body’s cells follow a 24-hour rhythm driven by their genes. NG2-glia is an oligodendrocyte precursor cell that follows its own circadian rhythm. It is the most common type of brain cell to proliferate and self-renew. It is also highly proliferative in the first week after brain injuries.
Further research examining how cell renewal is coordinated with the time of day is critical for developing future TBI treatments. Interim chief academic officer and interim director of the Children’s National Research Institute. Vittorio Gallo, Ph.D. explained: “With this knowledge, we can dig deeper into the body’s genetic healing process to understand how cells regulate and regenerate themselves.” Understanding cellular regeneration could lead to highly effective drug treatments and rehabilitative techniques.
TBI affects roughly 69 million people globally. Approximately 2.8 million Americans sustain a brain injury every year, including 630,000 children. TBIs can include everything from mild concussions to injuries resulting in severe and lifelong physical, mental and physiological disabilities and it is the leading cause of death in individuals 45 years and younger.
Some key strategies for optimizing the circadian clock include consistent healthy sleep, exercise and dietary practices. Some scientists highlight that the circadian clock can be used to manage a range of health conditions, boost the immune system, and support a healthier lifestyle.