Theses Doctoral

Blood-Brain Barrier Dysfunction and Repair after Blast-Induced Traumatic Brain Injury

Hue, Christopher Donald

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the signature injury of modern military conflicts due to widespread use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and modern body armor. However, the exact biophysical mechanisms of blast-induced traumatic brain injury (bTBI) and its pathological effects on the blood-brain barrier (BBB) – a structure essential for maintaining brain homeostasis – remain poorly understood. The specific aims of this thesis are to: 1) determine a threshold for primary blast-induced BBB dysfunction in vitro; 2) determine the effect of repeated blast on BBB integrity in vitro; 3) improve BBB recovery in vitro as a potential therapeutic strategy for mitigating effects of blast; and 4) quantify the time course and pore-size of BBB opening in vivo.
In this work we utilized a shock tube driven by compressed gas to generate operationally relevant, ideal pressure profiles consistent with IEDs. By multiple measures, the barrier function of an in vitro BBB model was disrupted after exposure to a range of blast-loading conditions. Trans-endothelial electrical resistance (TEER) decreased acutely in a dose-dependent manner that was most strongly correlated with impulse, as opposed to peak overpressure or duration. Significantly increased hydraulic conductivity and solute permeability post-injury further confirmed acute alterations in barrier function. Compromised ZO-1 immunostaining identified a structural basis for BBB breakdown. These results are the first to demonstrate acute disruption of an in vitro BBB model after primary blast exposure; defined tolerance criteria may be important for development of novel helmet designs to help mitigate effects of blast on the BBB.
After determining that exposure to a single primary blast caused BBB disruption, we hypothesized that exposure to two consecutive blast injuries would result in exacerbated damage to the BBB in vitro. However, contrary to our hypothesis, repeated mild or moderate primary blast delivered within 24 or 72 hours did not significantly exacerbate reductions in TEER across a brain endothelial monolayer compared to sister cultures receiving a single exposure. Single blast exposure significantly reduced immunostaining of ZO-1 and claudin-5 tight junction proteins, but subsequent exposure did not cause additional damage to tight junctions. The second injury delayed recovery of TEER and hydraulic conductivity in BBB cultures. Extending the inter-injury interval to 72 hours, the effects of repeated injury on the BBB were independent given sufficient recovery time between consecutive exposures. Investigation of repeated blast on the BBB will help identify a temporal window of vulnerability to repeated exposure.
Restoration of the BBB after blast injury has emerged as a promising therapeutic target. We hypothesized that treatment with dexamethasone (DEX) after primary blast would potentiate recovery of an in vitro BBB model. DEX treatment resulted in complete recovery of TEER and hydraulic conductivity 1 day after injury, compared with 3 days for vehicle-treated injured cultures. Administration of RU486 (mifepristone) inhibited effects of DEX, confirming that barrier restoration was mediated by glucocorticoid receptor signaling. Potentiated recovery with DEX treatment was accompanied by stronger ZO-1 tight junction immunostaining and expression, suggesting that increased ZO-1 expression was a structural correlate to BBB recovery. This is the first study to provide a mechanistic basis for potentiated functional recovery of an in vitro BBB model due to glucocorticoid treatment after blast injury.
Using an in vivo bTBI model, systemic administration of sodium fluorescein (NaFl; 376 Da), Evans blue (EB; 69 kDa when bound to serum albumin) and dextrans (3 – 500 kDa) was used to estimate the pore-size of BBB opening and time required for recovery. Exposure to blast resulted in significant acute extravasation of NaFl, 3 kDa dextran, and EB. However, there was no significant acute extravasation of 70 kDa or 500 kDa dextrans, and minimal to no extravasation of NaFl, dextrans, or EB 1 day after exposure. This work is the first to quantify the time course and size of BBB opening after bTBI, suggesting that the BBB recovered 1 day post-injury. This study supports our hypothesis that transient opening of the BBB may permit serum-components to infiltrate the brain parenchyma and contribute to pathological secondary cascades.
This research has shown that BBB damage, demonstrated in vitro and in vivo, is a major mechanism contributing to vascular and neuronal pathology of bTBI at exposure levels above a critical threshold. Compared with published studies on blast-induced damage to the BBB, we have developed primary blast injury tolerance criteria by precisely controlling the biomechanical initiators of injury and measuring resulting alterations to the structure and function of an in vitro BBB model by methods not possible in vivo. We have also developed a potential glucocorticoid treatment to rapidly restore the BBB after injury, which may lead to more promising therapeutic strategies to treat TBI-related pathologies. This work will also guide the development of novel armor designs to protect service members and civilians in order to more effectively address the burden to society of bTBI.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Biomedical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Morrison, Barclay
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 2, 2015