Durham, N.C. — It can happen in an instant – a car accident or even a slip on a skateboard can lead to traumatic brain injury. The most severe cases can be fatal or leave patients with long-term disabilities.
Now, Duke University researchers say a simple hormone could be a huge benefit.
A late night out with friends last summer changed 22-year-old Steven Jones' life, even though he doesn't remember much of what happened. He was in the back of a pickup truck as it rolled slowly to a stop.
“Somehow, I lost my balance and fell out of the truck, and that's how I got the brain injury,” Jones said.
Duke neurologist Dr. Daniel Laskowitz says Jones came into the emergency department with a severe traumatic brain injury. The key to survival of TBI is minimizing the swelling and pressure on the brain.
“There are treatments for TBI, but we're limited in terms of what we can offer,” Laskowitz said.
When Jones' mom, Ann Davis-Jones, arrived at Duke the night of the accident, doctors asked her consent to include her son in a phase 3 trial involving an infusion of progesterone, a natural hormone that reduced swelling and some cellular injury in earlier trials.
“I signed the consent. He got the shot, a miracle … I have my son,” Davis-Jones said.
The family doesn't know if Steven Jones got the hormone or just a placebo, but his mom is convinced he got the real thing. They want other families in the same situation to know about the trial.
“It's good for everybody to know, in case it happens to them,” Davis-Jones said.
If the results bear out, it could become a standard of TBI care. Patients must get the progesterone IV infusion within 8 hours of being injured.
“So this is a phase 3 trial, meaning that, if it works, there's at least a possibility that we'll have the first definitive treatment for traumatic brain injury,” Laskowitz said.