Research has affirmed that xenon, the anaesthetic drug, can prevent brain tissue damage that would result in long-term cognitive problems if administered within a few hours of the TBI.

The study, from Imperial College London and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, builds upon previous research which has shown the gas to have a neuroprotective property in animals subjected to a controlled cortical impact.

This study tracked three different animal groups: those given a TBI followed by a placebo gas, those given a TBI followed by xenon gas, and a healthy control with no TBI. An 20 month follow-up period allowed the researchers to examine whether the xenon treatment reduced long-term damage resulting from the TBI.

While those animals with a TBI but no xenon treatment ultimately developed late-life cognitive damage, the xenon-treated mice seemed to be protected from this long-term decline. The xenon group displayed similar life expectancy to the healthy control group, and posthumous brain examinations revealed the xenon treatment lowered long-term brain inflammation and neurodegeneration.

“We have looked at very long-term outcomes, up to 20 months after TBI in mice,” corresponding author Robert Dickinson said. “This is very rarely done in animal studies and is equivalent to following up human TBI patients until their 80s.

“The finding that only a short treatment with xenon can have beneficial effects on cognition, survival, and brain damage almost two years later suggests that xenon might in future prevent cognitive decline and improve survival in human TBI patients.”