There could be a possibility that males suffer and recover from traumatic brain injury (TBI) differently than females, a study on mice by scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center has shown.
Published in GLIA, the study is the first of its kind that investigates how sex alters the time-course of inflammation in the brain after TBI. Findings indicate that sex is an important factor to consider when designing and testing new drugs to treat TBI.
The study showed that male mice have greater brain distress in the week following a TBI with greater inflammation and nerve cell death. Previous studies have shown that male animals have worse outcome after TBI than female animals, and recent clinical trials have studied female sex hormones as a therapy for TBI.
Sex differences are understudied in preclinical research, and the National Institutes of Health has recently issued guidelines to ensure that sex and other biological variables are included in research design.
For the study scientists focused on how sex alters key neuroinflammatory responses that follow TBI. They specifically looked at microglial cells, which are the resident immune cells of the brain, and movement of macrophages from the blood into the injured brain. Macrophages, which are also immune cells, offer the first line of defense against infection.
Researchers found that the sex response was “completely divergent” up to a week after injury — there was a rapid activation of immune cells, along with robust neuron cell death, in males, but female mice experienced a markedly reduced response. Findings indicate the possibility that female mice have more protection against brain trauma in the first week after TBI.
If this is the case of humans as well then it indicates that medical professionals have a much larger time-period to treat female patients following TBI. The study and its findings could help us design new treatments for TBI in males.