Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a health threat that affects every year millions of people involved in motor vehicle and sporting accidents, and thousands of soldiers in battlefields. Diffuse axonal injury (DAI) is one of the most frequent types of TBI leading to death. In DAI, the initial traumatic event is followed by a cascade of biochemical changes that take time to develop in full, so that symptoms may not become apparent until days or weeks after the original injury. Hence, DAI is a dynamic process, and the opportunity exists to prevent its progression provided the initial trauma can be predicted at the molecular level. Here, we present preliminary evidence from micro-finite element (FE) simulations that the mechanical response of central nervous system myelinated fibers is dependent on the axonal diameter, the ratio between axon diameter and fiber diameter (g-ratio), the microtubules density, and the cholesterol concentration in the axolemma and myelin. A key outcome of the simulations is that there is a significant difference between the overall level of strain in a given axonal segment and the level of local strain in the Ranvier nodes contained in that segment, with the nodal strain being much larger than the total strain. We suggest that the acquisition of this geometric and biochemical information by means of already available high resolution magnetic resonance imaging techniques, and its incorporation in current FE models of the brain will enhance the models capacity to predict the site and magnitude of primary axonal damage upon TBI.
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