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PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e39421. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0039421. Epub 2012 Jun 29.

Shear forces during blast, not abrupt changes in pressure alone, generate calcium activity in human brain cells.

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  • 1Program in Physical Biology, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, United States of America.


Blast-Induced Traumatic Brain Injury (bTBI) describes a spectrum of injuries caused by an explosive force that results in changes in brain function. The mechanism responsible for primary bTBI following a blast shockwave remains unknown. We have developed a pneumatic device that delivers shockwaves, similar to those known to induce bTBI, within a chamber optimal for fluorescence microscopy. Abrupt changes in pressure can be created with and without the presence of shear forces at the surface of cells. In primary cultures of human central nervous system cells, the cellular calcium response to shockwaves alone was negligible. Even when the applied pressure reached 15 atm, there was no damage or excitation, unless concomitant shear forces, peaking between 0.3 to 0.7 Pa, were present at the cell surface. The probability of cellular injury in response to a shockwave was low and cell survival was unaffected 20 hours after shockwave exposure.

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