News : 2016 : December

What if a Pill Could be the Answer to Concussion?

The goal of finding a treatment for concussion may be one step closer due to a new study being launched by University of Miami researchers. As part of a $16 million research grant from Scythian Biosciences, researchers at the university’s The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and Miller School of Medicine will begin studying whether a simple pill could someday be a solution to the growing concussion epidemic.

A multi-disciplinary team of researchers from neurology, neurological surgery and otolaryngology will embark on this five-year study to address the effects of combining CBD (a cannabinoid derivative of hemp), and an NMDA antagonist for the treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and concussion. Researchers believe the combination could reduce post-injury brain cell inflammation, headache, pain and other symptoms associated with concussion.

Traumatic brain injury is a major cause of death and disability in the United States, contributing to about 30 percent of all injury deaths and impacting approximately two million children and teenagers annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been some 345,000 diagnosed cases among U.S. Armed Forces members since 2000, and professional and amateur football and hockey players, as well as other athletes, continue to be plagued at alarming rates. Most of these individuals face short-term effects such as headaches and dizziness, while others are at increased risk for longer-term chronic medical problems, including disorders of attention, memory, anxiety, depression and dementia.

While the prevalence of TBI, which includes concussion, is on the rise, research and treatment options are still very much in the early stages. The partnership between the University of Miami and the Canada-based Scythian Biosciences aims to propel this research and potential treatment forward by using two classes of drugs in a combination that scientists believe will reduce brain inflammation and the immune response. Researchers hypothesize that this unique CBD and NMDA antagonist compound will impact the CB2 and NMDA cell receptors, reversing the effects of concussion through a reduction of immune response decreasing brain inflammation.

“The implications for the study are extraordinary,” said Michael Hoffer, M.D., professor of otolaryngology at the Miller School of Medicine. “To have such a large team of multidisciplinary neuroscience experts attaching themselves to research that could change the outcome of TBI and concussion care is the opportunity researchers have been looking for to curb the growing trend of concussion.”

The study will be led by Gillian Hotz, Ph.D., research professor of neurological surgery, director of the KIDZ Neuroscience Center at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and director of the concussion program at University of Miami Health System Sports Medicine Institute.

“Throughout the course of my career,” said Hotz, “one thing has eluded us – a clinically proven medication to treat concussion. Whether or not this study leads to a pill that could treat concussion, this type of research will pave the way for UM and other researchers to better manage concussion. We can only hope that our hypotheses and trials lead us to the ending we all desire – a simple pill to treat concussion.”

For more information call Dr. Hotz at (305) 243-4004.