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Behavioral recovery from traumatic brain injury after membrane reconstruction using polyethylene glycol

Andrew O Koob14, Julia M Colby2 and Richard B Borgens3*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Paralysis Research, Program in Neuroscience, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA

2 Center for Paralysis Research, Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA

3 Center for Paralysis Research, Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA

4 Stein Institute for Research on Aging, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA

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Journal of Biological Engineering 2008, 2:9  doi:10.1186/1754-1611-2-9

Published: 27 June 2008


Polyethylene glycol (PEG; 2000 MW, 30% by volume) has been shown to mechanically repair damaged cellular membranes and reduce secondary axotomy after traumatic brain and spinal cord injury (TBI and SCI respectively). This repair is achieved following spontaneous reassembly of cell membranes made possible by the action of targeted hydrophilic polymers which first seal the compromised portion of the plasmalemma, and secondarily, allow the lipidic core of the compromised membranes to resolve into each other. Here we compared PEG-treated to untreated rats using a computer-managed open-field behavioral test subsequent to a standardized brain injury. Animals were evaluated after a 2-, 4-, and 6-hour delay in treatment after TBI. Treated animals receive a single subcutaneous injection of PEG. When treated within 2 hours of the injury, injured PEG-treated rats showed statistically significant improvement in their exploratory behavior recorded in the activity box when compared to untreated but brain-injured controls. A delay of 4 hours reduced this level of achievement, but a statistically significant improvement due to PEG injection was still clearly evident in most outcome measures compared at the various evaluation times. A further delay of 2 more hours, however, eradicated the beneficial effects of PEG injection as revealed using this behavioral assessment. Thus, there appears to be a critical window of time in which PEG administration after TBI can provide neuroprotection resulting in an enhanced functional recovery. As is often seen in clinically applied acute treatments for trauma, the earlier the intervention can be applied, the better the outcome.