January 26, 2016
New research by Lawrence Livermore scientists shows how shock waves can damage membrane proteins in traumatic brain injury patients.
Blast-induced traumatic brain injury (TBI) from improvised explosive devices is the most frequent wound occurring from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Estimates suggest more than 200,000 veterans have had at least one traumatic brain injury.
Clinical reports and in vivo studies show exposure to a blast can cause TBI, although how the energy is transmitted to the brain is not well understood.
That's where Livermore researchers come in. Using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, LLNL physicists Ed Lau and Eric Schwegler , along with University of North Carolina colleague Max Berkowitz, found that ion channels are resistant to damage by shock waves. But with the presence of bubbles, the damage from shock waves is magnified and can contribute to an electrolyte imbalance within cells that can lead to the initial symptoms of TBI, such as headaches and seizures.