Friday, July 18, 2008

Ladies Home Journal Names Emory Researcher Health Breakthrough Award Winner

Donald Stein, PhD, Asa G. Candler Professor of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, has been named by Ladies Home Journal as one of four winners of the Health Breakthrough Award for 2008.

Stein, director of Emory's Department of Emergency Medicine Brain Research Laboratory, has pioneered discoveries regarding the neuroprotective effect of the hormone progesterone following traumatic brain injury (TBI). He first discovered the neuroprotective properties of progesterone in the laboratory, and members of his research team have been studying its properties for nearly 20 years. They recently found that giving progesterone to patients soon after brain injury may reduce the risk of death and lower the degree of disability.

Stein was named with three other medical professionals who have transformed an area of health with results that dramatically benefit women and families. The award winners were selected following a search of more than 80 health care organizations, medical schools, teaching hospitals, universities and government agencies.

Progesterone is naturally present in small but measurable amounts in the brains of men and women. Laboratory studies suggest that progesterone is critical for the normal development of neurons in the brain and exerts protective effects on damaged brain tissue.

In a study published in the April 2007 issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine, Stein and his colleagues reported that only 13 percent of severely brain-injured patients who received natural progesterone died from traumatic brain injury compared with 30 percent of those given a placebo (inactive substance). After 30 days, the researchers say, functioning had improved in nearly 56 percent of patients who received progesterone after a moderate TBI, including improved motor response and ability to communicate.

Traumatic brain injury is now the leading cause of death and disability among children and young adults. In the United States alone someone suffers from a TBI every 15 seconds -- resulting in more than 1.2 million injuries and 50,000 deaths each year. Few clinically effective therapies currently exist for stroke, and nothing is widely available for trauma.

Other 2008 Health Breakthrough Award recipients include:

Benjamin S. Abella, MD, MPhil, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
David C. Kaelber, MD, PhD, MetroHealth System -- Cleveland
Paula P. Schnurr, PhD, Department of Veterans Affairs - White River Junction, Vermont

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