The Brain, Organoids and Dementia / ALS After Traumatic Injury

The Brain, Organoids and Dementia / ALS After Traumatic Injury


In a groundbreaking study published in Cell Stem Cell, researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of USC have shed light on the mechanisms behind the increased risk of developing dementia and ALS following a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Utilizing lab-grown human brain structures called organoids, scientists have uncovered valuable insights into the underlying causes and potential ways to mitigate these risks. This article aims to delve into the findings of this study, exploring the benefits, potential treatments, and any associated side effects.

Understanding the Study

The study conducted by the USC scientists involved the use of human patient-derived stem cells to grow organoids in the laboratory. These organoids were then subjected to high-intensity ultrasound waves to simulate a traumatic brain injury. The injured organoids exhibited similar features to those seen in TBI patients, including nerve cell death and pathological changes in tau proteins and a protein called TDP-43.

Link to Dementia and ALS

The researchers discovered that the organoids derived from patients with ALS or frontotemporal dementia displayed a higher prevalence of pathological changes in the TDP-43 protein. This finding suggests that individuals with a genetic predisposition to these diseases may be at an even greater risk of developing them after a TBI. Notably, the most severe injuries were observed in excitatory neurons, which are responsible for sharing information and are located in the deep layers of the organoids.

Protective Gene: KCNJ2

In their quest to find ways to safeguard these neurons from the effects of TBI, the scientists identified a gene called KCNJ2. This gene contains instructions for making channels that selectively allow potassium to pass through cell membranes, aiding in muscle contraction and relaxation. Inhibiting the KCNJ2 gene had a protective effect on organoids derived from both ALS and non-ALS patients, as well as on mice following a TBI. This breakthrough discovery suggests that targeting KCNJ2 could potentially serve as a post-injury treatment or prophylactic measure for individuals at high risk of TBI, such as athletes.

Treatment Options and Benefits

While the study focused on organoids and potential genetic interventions, it is important to note that these findings are preliminary and require further research. Currently, there are no specific treatments approved for protecting the brain against dementia or ALS following a TBI. However, understanding the role of the KCNJ2 gene opens up new possibilities for future therapeutic interventions. By targeting this gene, researchers may be able to develop drugs or gene therapies that can mitigate the risk of neurodegenerative diseases after a TBI.

Potential Side Effects and Considerations

As this study is still in its early stages, it is crucial to recognize that any potential treatments derived from these findings would need to undergo rigorous testing and clinical trials to ensure their safety and efficacy. Additionally, individual responses to treatments can vary, and it is important to consult with healthcare professionals before pursuing any interventions.


The study on organoids has provided valuable insights into the link between traumatic brain injury and the increased risk of developing dementia and ALS. By identifying the KCNJ2 gene as a potential target for intervention, researchers have opened up new avenues for future treatments. However, it is essential to remember that these findings are preliminary, and further research is needed to translate them into effective therapies. In the meantime, it is crucial to prioritize preventative measures such as wearing protective gear during activities that carry a risk of head injury. By continuing to unravel the complexities of brain injuries, we move closer to a future where we can better protect and preserve brain health.


1. Organoids reveal how to protect the brain against dementia and ALS - HSC News
2. Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California on LinkedIn: Organoids reveal how to protect the brain against dementia and ALS
3. Brain Organoids Illuminate TBI's Link to Neurodegeneration - Neuroscience News
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