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Progesterone may save traumatic brain injury patients

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A young woman has been given a second chance at life after a pedestrian accident that could’ve left her an invalid with traumatic brain injury. Eighteen-year-old Michelle Vaquero wound up on the wrong side of a car while crossing the street. The was sent soaring 30 feet away from the initial contact.

Doctors didn’t give Michelle’s mom, Miriam, much optimism. “The impact was so severe that they didn’t give us any hope,” she told the New York Times. “They didn’t tell us she’d be fine. They didn’t know how bad it was.”

Michelle’s mother had reason to worry since traumatic brain injury has been known to cause permanent disability and even death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year, nearly 1.7 million Americans suffer some type of traumatic brain injury, which can range from mild to severe. In most cases people suffer from a mild traumatic brain injury, which are usually various forms of concussions. About 275,000 people are hospitalized annually, and about 50,000 die from the severity of the injury.

Thanks to a medical study, Michelle may beat those odds.

The Times reports that upon her arrival at the hospital, she was enrolled in National Institutes of Health-funded research that could reduce the amount of damage to the brain. Emory University doctors are experimenting with progesterone, a female reproductive hormone that is found in both male and female brains, leading doctors to believe it also has neuroprotective functions. In fact, pregnant laboratory rats with high levels of progesterone fared better than their counterparts in remembering how to swim through a maze after an induced brain injury. Researchers also believe that progesterone may repair damaged brain cells and reduce cerebral swelling that kills brain cells.

The three-day progesterone infusion is being tested in two trials, and the FDA has promised to fast-track approval if results turn out well. Results may take up to three years, but Emory University researchers plan to look at preliminary results this summer. They’ll stop the trial if things look good.

Let’s hope this treatment works, because it could potentially be the answer to the concussions suffered by war veterans and NFL and MBL players.

Right now, Michelle doesn’t know whether she took progesterone or a placebo, but her recovery process is going very well. She has learned how to walk, and is aware that she needs more time and therapy in order to regain most of her mobility.

“Sometimes there’s a couple of days in the month when I get depressed,” she told the Times, “but mostly I’m in a good mood. I feel that I’ll be able to get back to normal, but it’s going to take time.”