Treating kids with traumatic brain injuries

FRESNO, Calif.

A horrific car accident changed Joe Detwiler's life in an instant, the impact caused severe brain injury.

"He just looked so still and unresponsive. You want to just hug him and tell him you love him," Mike Detwiler, Joe's Dad, told Action News.

The teen spent two months in a medically induced coma and two more in the hospital relearning everything.

"That's actually brain injury, the tissue looks dark because it's damaged," Jose A. Pineda, MD, MScan, an assistant Professor at Washington University School of Medicine, explained.

Doctor Jose Pineda hopes to help kids like Joe, survive traumatic brain injuries and improve their recovery. He's pioneering research in kids, looking at trauma to the mitochondria. The power plant that energizes cells in the brain.

"We confirmed what we had suspected and that is that, indeed the mitochondria of children with brain injuries is failing, and it's been failing for many many weeks," Dr. Pineda said.

Now, they're exploring a way to stimulate the mitochondria in kids with TBI.

"We would administer a medication that will travel to the brain to the injured brain, go directly to the mitochondria and help it heal," Dr. Pineda said.

Clinical trials are going on right now to test that kind of medication in adults. The doctor tells us they're promising. In an unrelated study a similar therapeutic approach in adults with TBI improved function at 30 days after the injury and reduced mortality by more than 60%.

As for Joe, he's made an amazing recovery and believes his doctors made all the difference

"I can't even put into words how thankful I am," Joe Detwiler said.

Since his accident, Joe has graduated high school and is getting ready to further his education. Meanwhile, several drugs are being developed by researchers around the world to stimulate the mitochondria in TBI patients.


Tess Hossenlopp
Administrative Assistant
Division of Critical Care Medicine
(314) 286-2444

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