head injury

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In Vitro Models as a Platform to Investigate Traumatic Brain Injury

Ashwin Kumaria

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) remains a significant cause of mortality and morbidity, affecting individuals of all age groups. Much remains to be learned about its complex pathophysiology, with a view to designing effective neuroprotective strategies to protect sublethally injured brain tissue that would otherwise die in secondary injury processes. Experimental in vivo models offer the potential to study TBI in the laboratory, however, treatments that were neuroprotective in animals have, thus far, largely failed to translate in human clinical studies. In vitro models of neurotrauma can be used to study specific pathophysiological cascades — individually and without confounding factors — and to test potential neuroprotective strategies. These in vitro models include transection, compression, barotrauma, acceleration, hydrodynamic, chemical injury and cell-stretch methodologies. Various cell culture systems can also be utilised, including brain-on-a-chip, immortalised cell lines, primary cultures, acute preparations and organotypic cultures. Potential positive outcomes of the increased use of in vitro platforms to study TBI would be the refinement of in vivo experiments, as well as enhanced translation of the results into clinically meaningful neuroprotective strategies for the future. In addition, the replacement of in vivo experiments by suitable in vitro studies would lead to a welcome reduction in the numbers of animal procedures in this ethically-challenging field.

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