Traumatic Brain Injuries need not be fatal

In India, around 1.6 million individuals sustain a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) every year, according to studies. Almost 200,000 of them die.

A report by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control states that TBI contributes to 30.5 per cent of injury-related deaths in the United States.

Aayush Kant, a research scholar with the IITB-Monash Research Academy, would like to see these numbers reduce drastically. He is working on a project titled ‘Predicting damage to neurological tissues during a Traumatic Brain Injury’, under the supervision of Prof Tanmay K Bhandakkar and Prof Nikhil Medhekar.

Figure 1: A representative effect of an external impact resulting in injuries in the interior of the brain tissue. The figure depicts the primary damage due to the physical injury. This would be followed by a secondary damage in the form of accumulation of calcium ions inside the cell, resulting in cell death. (source: Wikimedia Commons; Contrecoup by Patrick J Lynch / CC-BY-2.5 license)

“Two types of damage occur during a TBI,” explains Aayush, “primary mechanical damage due to the impact-related stress and strain; and a secondary damage, which triggers a series of neuro-chemical reactions leading to cell deaths. The secondary damage is initiated by accumulation of calcium ions inside the cell in high concentrations.”

While primary and secondary damage have been studied largely in isolation, Aayush hopes to come up with a mathematical model that can simulate the occurrence of a TBI using the theory of stress-assisted diffusion, and ascertain the locations most susceptible to both types of damage.

Figure 2: Ion transport pathways inside a neuron. Only a few important pathways are shows for representative purpose. The pathways in black dash-lines increase the intracellular concentration of calcium ions, while those in red dotted lines decrease it.

“Our model will use the Finite Element Numerical technique,” he reveals, “and such a coupled model has not been studied previously. We have identified two parameters to be used as predictors of damage during a TBI. These are principal strain and intracellular calcium ion concentrations. Using simplified geometry, the initial predictions of the model are in agreement with the results obtained by other researchers using ‘non-coupled’ models. However, we still need to study a more generalised 3D geometry to utilise the full potential of the model.”

The IITB-Monash Research Academy is a collaboration between India and Australia that endeavours to strengthen scientific relationships between the two countries, and graduate research scholars like Aayush study for a dually-badged PhD from both IIT Bombay and Monash University, spending time at both institutions to enrich their research experience.

Prof Murali Sastry, CEO of the Academy, can see at least three applications for the type of coupled model that Aayush is working on:

  • To researchers, the model can be used for further investigation into the injury mechanisms involved in a TBI.
  • To medics and para-medics, an accurate version of the model can be used to pin-point locations of high susceptibility in individual cases, which translates into immediate medical attention being provided to the patient.
  • To industry, it can be used to design protective gears such as helmets for sports, military applications, transport; or even design of airbags.

“As the reputation of our institution grows and as more organisations start collaborating with us, we anticipate that the IITB-Monash Research Academy will contribute to maintaining India’s reputation as a leading-edge global research hub,” says Prof Sastry.

Rearchers like Aayush can’t wait to prove him right!

Research scholar: Aayush Kant, IITB-Monash Research Academy

Project title: Predicting damage to neurological tissues during a Traumatic Brain Injury

Supervisors: Prof Tanmay K Bhadakkar and Prof Nikhil Medhekar

Contact details: aayush.kant@iitb.ac.in

This story was written by Mr Krishna Warrier based on inputs from the research student, his supervisors and IITB-Monash Research Academy. Copyright IITB-Monash Research Academy.