Treatment with a female sex hormone may prevent death and brain damage in people who have suffered serious head injuries, new research claims. Researchers believe the injections of progesterone can increase survival rates by half and reduce side effects and long-term disabilities for victims of car crashes, violence and sporting accidents. They believe the hormone, which naturally occurs during pregnancy and is used in oral contraceptives, appears to protect nerve cells from permanent damage in the aftermath of a severe injury. The treatment has proved so successful in early tests that it is going to final human trial and could be widely available within a decade.
It is estimated that across the UK there are around 500,000 people (aged 16 – 74) living with long term disabilities as a result of traumatic brain injury. A further 135,000 people are admitted to hospital each year with a severe brain injury and approximately half of deaths in people under 40 are due to traumatic brain injury. “No new treatment for severe traumatic brain injury has been approved in over 30 years,” said Professor David Wright, the study leader at Emory University in Atlanta told the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in San Diego. He said “We hope to conclude in this national trial that progesteroneâ€“along with standard medical trauma careâ€“works better than standard medical care alone in reducing brain damage caused from a traumatic brain injury.”