Head injuries can adversely affect hundreds of genes in the brain that put people at high risk for diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, PTSD, stroke, ADHD, autism, depression and schizophrenia, UCLA scientists report. The researchers identified for the first time master genes that they believe control hundreds of other genes which are linked to a wide range of neurological and psychiatric disorders. Genes have the potential to express any of several types of proteins, and traumatic brain injury can damage the master genes, which can then lead to damage of other genes.
Nearly two dozen of the altered genes are present in both the hippocampus and the blood, which presents the possibility that scientists could develop a gene-based blood test to determine whether a brain injury has occurred, and that measuring some of those genes could help doctors predict whether a person is likely to develop Alzheimer’s or other disorders. Not everyone with TBI develops the same diseases, but more severe injuries can damage more genes. The researchers now are studying some of the master genes to determine whether modifying them also causes changes in large numbers of other genes. If so, the master genes would be even more promising as targets for new treatments.