• Researchers describe the mechanisms of neurological damage caused by mechanical ventilation

    October 31, 2013

    The research, led by the University of Oviedo in collaboration with experts from the University of Pennsylvania and the St. Michael Hospital of Toronto, determines the molecular mechanism that causes mid-term neurological damage in patients in the ICU

    View under the microscope of cells positive for dysbindin (in brown), a compensation mechanism that is activated in the patients.

    At least 30 per cent of the patients in the Intensive Care Units (ICU) and who receive mechanical ventilation suffer from some sort of neurocognitive damage that in the mid- and long-term, in turn, causes symptomps such as anxiety, depression and, above all, delirium. Researchers from the University of Oviedo, the St. Michael Hospital of Toronto and the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania have discovered the molecular mechanism that explains the connection between mechanical ventilation and these brain damages. The work has been recently published in the prestigious Journal American Journal of of Repiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

    The researchers from the the Department of Functional Biology of the University of Oviedo have been working on this field for around a decade now. Their latest discovery has allowed them to describe the molecular mechanism that causes neuronal damage in patients with mechanical ventilation at the ICU. The experiments in the laboratory proved that pulmonar distension caused by mechanical ventilation generates a signal transmitted by the vagus nerve and an increment in the release of dopamine, which causes neuronal death. The tests conducted at the laboratory and at the Bank of Brains of the Central University Hospital of Asturias have revealed how this brain damage is caused in these patients.

    The team of scientists now works to achieve an early diagnosis of patients via genetic studies

    The description of the molecular mechanism brings about the application of treatments that prevent this damage thanks to the supply of antidopaminergic drugs to the patients in risk of suffering brain damage. The next step in the research by the team led by Doctor Guillermo Muñiz Albaiceta aims at achieving an early diagnosis and determining which patients have a higher risk of suffering these damages via genetic studies.

    "We have already established the models in mice and we are now searching for therapeutical approximations that allow us to avoid this molecular mechanism that causes damage at the hippocampus", explains Doctor Muñiz Albaiceta. These discoveries may lead to new therapeutical uses of the drugs that already available in the market and open the door to the creation of new specific drugs.

    The research, The research, led by the University of Oviedo in collaboration with experts from the University of Pennsylvania and the St. Michael Hospital of Toronto, has been funded by the Carlos III Health Institute and has had the support of the University of Oviedo, the FICYT and the University Institute of Oncology of the Principality of Asturias (IUOPA).

    Authors of the article

    Adrián González-López, Inés López-Alonso, Alina Aguirre, Laura Amado-Rodríguez, Estefanía Batalla-Solís, Aurora Astudillo, Cristina Tomás-Zapico, Antonio Fueyo, Claudia C. dos Santos, Konrad Talbot and Guillermo M. Albaiceta.

    Banner picture

    Image of neurons (in yellow) in the process of dying in one of the mice with mechanical ventilation.