Each year brain injuries cost the nation roughly $50 billion. That's half a trillion every decade.
And then there's the human toll....
Brain injuries kill 52,000 people each year, making this the third leading cause of death from injury.
But there's more to this story than the death toll. Another 80,000 people a year in the U.S. survive brain injuries but go on to lead reduced lives.
Luckily, there is hope. Today we're on the verge of saving millions from the suffering brought about by traumatic brain injuries.
These insights also will lead to new treatments for such severe brain diseases as Lou Gehrig's (also known as ALS) and Alzheimer's.
And that's what the Era of Radical Change is all about -- seeing friends and family survive things that a few years ago would have killed them.
It's all the result of more than 50 years of exponential growth in high tech and its effect on every aspect of science.
We are now at a tipping point in human history. Cases that once seemed doomed now offer new hope.
Brain Injuries: The Tragedy and the HopeUnfortunately, this is a story I know all too well. It is one of the reasons why I'm deeply interested in this field.
Nineteen years ago last March, my cousin was killed in an infamous boating accident while his family looked on.
Doctors tried to save him but to no avail. His brain injuries were just too severe.
Now I wonder how my cousin would have done had that very same boat crash happened today.
As it turns out, a similar accident just occurred in our town.
The driver was killed outright, while our family friend, Matt, suffered severe brain trauma.
As I write this, doctors are attempting once again to take him out of the coma they induced to stem the swelling of his brain. Though he still has a long way to go, I'm happy to say he has made great strides in the past 10 days.
In another case, doctors in Indiana recently used an experimental drug to treat a 30-year-old mother who has made an amazing recovery from her brain injury.
It's based on the female hormone progesterone. You see, doctors already knew that young women recover from brain trauma faster than men.
Studies with pregnant rats also showed they recovered more quickly than non-pregnant rats. And male rats that got progesterone also fared better.
Now, a team led by Emory University in Atlanta is in Phase III of a key clinical trial. It covers more than 1,000 patients at 17 U.S. medical centers.
The fact that the study already cleared major hurdles bodes well for its outcome. If the test succeeds it could mean that a new drug to treat brain injuries will hit the market in just a few years.
Stem Cells Open Paths to New CuresBut researchers at the University of Texas at Galveston recently took an even more novel approach. They treated brain traumas with stem cells.
It's pretty complex stuff. So, let me simplify.
Our brains are teeming with nerve cells called neurons. To work correctly, neurons rely on very special nerve fibers called axons.
Simply put, when axons are too damaged from trauma the patient dies. That's why the Texas team's work is so important.
Team members implanted neural stem cells into rat brains and made two major findings. The stem cells not only reduced brain damage, they also lowered levels of a deadly protein that courses through the brain after it suffers an impact.
Stem cells hold great promise for the long haul because they are natural. That means no drug side effects and the chance to have healthy cells grow new tissue.
It's why I believe it's just a matter of time before a biotech firm comes to market with an effective drug or treatment for brain injuries. Success here could be huge.
At the very least it will save us billions a year in healthcare costs alone.
As investors, that lets us make money while also saving lives.
In fact, I believe that in as little as a decade I will be able to report to you that thousands of patients like Matt have bounced back from their brain injuries.
It is one of the reasons I am so hopeful for America's future. Breakthroughs like these are part of our DNA.
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