Traumatic brain injury causes intestinal damage

Friday, October 4th, 2019

University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) researchers have found a two-way link between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and intestinal changes:

Researchers have known for years that TBI has significant effects on the gastrointestinal tract, but until now, scientists have not recognized that brain trauma can make the colon more permeable, potentially allowing allow harmful microbes to migrate from the intestine to other areas of the body, causing infection.. People are 12 times more likely to die from blood poisoning after TBI, which is often caused by bacteria, and 2.5 times more likely to die of a digestive system problem, compared with those without such injury.

In this study, the researchers examined mice that received an experimental TBI. They found that the intestinal wall of the colon became more permeable after trauma, changes that were sustained over the following month.

It is not clear how TBI causes these gut changes. A key factor in the process may be enteric glial cells (EGCs), a class of cells that exist in the gut. These cells are similar to brain astroglial cells, and both types of glial cells are activated after TBI. After TBI, such activation is associated with brain inflammation that contributes to delayed tissue damage in the brain. Researchers don’t know whether activation of ECGs after TBI contributes to intestinal injury or is instead an attempt to compensate for the injury.

The researchers also focused on the two-way nature of the process: how gut dysfunction may worsen brain inflammation and tissue loss after TBI. They infected the mice with Citrobacter rodentium, a species of bacteria that is the rodent equivalent of E. coli, which infects humans. In mice with a TBI who were infected with this the bacteria, brain inflammation worsened. Furthermore, in the hippocampus, a key region for memory, the mice who had TBI and were then infected lost more neurons than animals without infection.


  1. McChuck says:

    I knew it! I’ve had problems for years, and finally figured out the two are related. It’s good to see that medical research is finally catching up to reality.

    It’s odd. Doctors have known for a while that they use the same or similar medications for brain and gut ailments, but have only recently started figuring out that the nervous system is one big system, not several separate systems.

  2. Kirk says:

    When you get down to it, it stands to reason that the central nervous system is a mere outgrowth of the gut system–Where, after all, is most of your developmental need for a nervous system, in primitive lifeforms? The gut–Where they get all their energy from.

    The rest of it can be viewed as an accessory item designed to make it easier for the gut to get more and varied diet input than it could, before. We’re probably just fooling ourselves in thinking that we’re conscious, thinking beings: The reality is that it’s all about keeping that gut topped off with nutrients. We think of that system as being secondary; the reality is that it’s primary, and our consciousness is but a side-effect of the gut creating a system to go out and get the groceries.

  3. Sam J. says:

    Gut Bacteria. I’ve posted this here before it may be of some interest. Maybe the gut bacterisa can be changed to influence the well being of the rest of the body.

    Lactobacillus reuteri and anti-aging

    “…The idea of varying gut flora is right up there in modern medical treatment for stomach complaints….”

    Look at this damn mouse. Wow!

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