Clinical Consequences of Axonal Injury in Traumatic Brain Injury

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Traumatic brain injury (TBI), mainly caused by road-traffic accidents and falls, is a leading cause of mortality. Survivors often display debilitating motor, sensory and cognitive symptoms, leading to reduced quality of life and a profound economic burden to society. Additionally, TBI is a risk factor for future neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Commonly, TBI is categorized into focal and diffuse injuries, and based on symptom severity into mild, moderate and severe TBI. Diffuse axonal injury (DAI), biomechanically caused by rotational acceleration-deceleration forces at impact, is characterized by widespread axonal injury in superficial and deep white substance. DAI comprises a clinical challenge due to its variable course and unreliable prognostic methods. Furthermore, axonal injury may convey the link to neurodegeneration since molecules associated with neurodegenerative events aggregate in injured axons.The aim of this thesis was to study clinical consequences of axonal injury, its detection and pathological features, and potential link to neurodegeneration in severe TBI patients treated at the neurointensive care unit at Uppsala University Hospital. In paper I and IV DAI patients were studied for the relation of elevated intracranial pressure (ICP) and poor outcome to axonal injury on magnetic resonance imaging. In paper II, soluble amyloid-beta aggregates (oligomers and protofibrils), characteristic of AD pathology, were investigated in surgically resected brain tissue from severe TBI patients, using highly-selective Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assays. In paper III, brain tissue biopsy samples from TBI patients with either focal injury or DAI were examined for differential proteome profiles using mass spectrometry-based proteomics.The results provide evidence that axonal injury, located in the central brain stem, in substantia nigra and the mesencephalic tegmentum, is particularly related to poor outcome and increased ICP during neurointensive care of DAI patients. A novel classification system for prognostication after DAI is proposed. Furthermore, the thesis shows that severe TBI induces rapid accumulation of neurotoxic soluble amyloid-beta oligomers and protofibrils. In addition, DAI initiates unique proteome profiles different from that of focal TBI in structurally normal-appearing brain. These findings have implication for the clinical management of DAI patients, and provide new insight in the neuropathological consequences of axonal injury.