Each year, approximately 1.5 million Americans suffer from a traumatic brain injury. About 30 percent of these people will die, says Dr. Bruce Spiess from Virginia Commonwealth University of Richmond, Virginia.
“There is no magic pill or treatment for traumatic brain injury in terms of salvaging brain tissue. There is no way that we know of now to keep brain tissue alive,” Speiss said.
The brain can’t survive without oxygen, a vital nutrient. When a brain gets injured the swelling keeps the red blood cells from transporting enough oxygen to the brain. Spiess is researching new ways to deliver oxygen to vital organs called Oxycyte.
Oxycyte is a liquid, Teflon-like chemical that contains carbon and fluoride and can carry large amounts of oxygen. The particles in Oxycyte are about 1/50 to 1/100 the size of a red blood cell, so Oxycyte can carry oxygen to the brain when red blood cells can’t get through.
In a study of nine patients that had all suffered from traumatic brain injuries, Spiess gave them Oxycyte. In less than one hour, oxygen levels in the brains doubled.
“Some of the biochemical markers, they were tending to look like severe damage to the brain Within an hour to two hours after getting the Oxycyte, they came down almost completely to normal,” Spiess said.
One out of every three people will die from severe brain injury. In the study, only two out of the nine patients died. All seven remaining survivors went home from the hospital and they appear to be neurologically healthy.
Other injuries can also benefit from Oxycyte along with brain injuries. Preliminary research by Spiess also suggests the compound can preserve spinal cord function. Oxycyte can also preserve brain tissue after suffering a stroke and get needed oxygen to the heart during a heart attack.