UAB gets NFL grant to study concussions

Dr. Candace Floyd/

NFL Charities, a non-profit foundation created by the league owners, is giving a team of researches at UAB a portion of a $1.5 million grant package to study a new compound that may minimize the effects of concussions.

Dr. Candace Floyd, the associate professor and director of research in the Department of Physical Medicine and Research at UAB, and Dr. Hubert Tse, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology, will lead a team in studying a compound known as a catalytic oxidoreductant, which may lessen the secondary effects of concussions.

According to Floyd, when a concussion occurs the brain suffers mechanical injury at the moment of initial impact, in which brain cells are damaged by the force of the impact.{} This is followed by an array of biochemical injuries, including "oxidative stress and an overly aggressive immune response to inflammation in the brain."

"A good analogy might be a small forest fire," says Floyd. "The original concussive impact creates a small fire that by itself only causes minimal damage to the forest. But if the body's response to that fire is inappropriate and too strong, it fans the flames and causes the fire to burn out of control. We believe our experimental compound (catalytic oxidoreductant) will shut off that response, minimizing the damage while allowing the fire to burn out on its own."

Originally, the compound, developed by Dr. Tse in collaboration with colleagues at Duke University, was created to combat rejection in organ transplants.{} Floyd and other doctors noticed the positive effects it was having on reducing oxidative stress which led to a new pilot study on spinal cord injuries.{} That study exhibited encouraging signs, resulting in the new concussion study.

"We're very glad to be working with NFL Charities on this novel approach to minimizing the injuries associated with concussions," says Floyd. "Our share of the funding, $100,000 over the next year and a half, will allow us to ascertain the validity of this very promising approach."

The team will also study the compound's effects on numerous concussions due to the growing evidence of significant brain damage resulting from three or more concussions.{} Floyd says the goal would be to have a drug that can be given to the patient immediately following a concussion, whether it be by a trainer on a football field or EMS at the site of a car accident.