What Do Traumatic Brain Injuries and Yams Have in Common?

It’s all about progesterone.

If Rhode Island researchers are right, and can prove what they are seeing on a larger scale, there may be even more hope for someone with a brain injury. The ProTECT study is being carried on in a small room in the Rhode Island Hospital, led by an E.R. doctor. The “Pro” part stands for progesterone, which, according to the American Fertility Association, “is a hormone that is released by the ovaries and is important for menstrual function and pregnancy.”

The rationale behind this exercise is that progesterone exists, naturally, in women and men. The difference here is that the particular progesterone the team is working with is not derived from humans. It comes from a yam.

Tests on animals have demonstrated that the yam-based progesterone decreased brain swelling. The benefits were deemed so great that it was then tried on humans — one trial a world away in China and another in Atlanta, Georgia. The results have been extremely encouraging. They all demonstrated a decreased morbidity, which refers to having a disease, or being unhealthy, and a lower death rate.

Rhode Island is not the only U.S. location performing this study. It is underway nationally in at least 40 other sites, with the intention of determining whether the progesterone, combined with the usual method of caring for head traumas, works better than just the usual treatment protocol. At least 800 patients are enrolled in the trial, and even though there are some side effects, such as infusion site inflammation, clotting, and possible pulmonary embolism, the future is beginning to look a bit brighter for TBI patients. 

TBI is more prevalent than you may think. Every 60 seconds, four Americans sustain a brain injury. Every five minutes, one person is permanently disabled due to a TBI. Research that assists in dealing with the results of this type of injury is ongoing, and some inroads have been made. However, for the most part, medical personnel still have their hands tied when it comes to managing the symptoms of a swollen brain and neuron damage. All help is welcome.

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