News in brief: Concern over sports neurology publications; Australian study likens long COVID to TBI; Progress on amniotic cell therapy for stroke

Thursday, 23 Jun 2022

More concern over sports neurology publications

A concussion expert has questioned whether sports neurologist Dr Paul McCrory should continue publishing any further research papers in the area until plagiarism allegations have been resolved.

Dr McCrory had a British Journal of Sports Medicine journal article retracted three months ago after it was found to have significant overlap with another study published in 2000. Publisher BMJ Group said it was investigating other work published by Dr McCrory, the BJSM’s former editor-in-chief, in light of “additional allegations of plagiarism.

Dr Chris Nowinski, co-founder and executive director of the Concussion Legacy Foundation in Boston, said Dr McCrory had been perhaps the most influential voice on sports-related concussion and it was essential there were no doubts about his publications, given he had downplayed causal links to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

He noted Dr McCrory continued to publish in the concussion field, with his name listed as a co-author on a study published in the Frontiers in Neurology journal in April, which found larger size cavum septum pellucidum (CSP) anatomic features  in retired elite rugby league players.

“With the revelations of plagiarism and other concerning acts, we have to be very concerned about anything McCrory has touched,” Dr Nowinski told the Herald Sun.

He said there was a need for sports organisations that relied on concussion guidelines authored by Dr McCrory to “start fresh, with new consensus statements drawn up by independent researchers with no financial links to sports codes.

Australian study likens long COVID to TBI

Up to one-fifth of patients with long COVID-19 are experiencing brain fog and memory loss for longer than a year, an Australian study suggests.

The researchers led by St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney neurologist Professor Bruce Brew say they have also identified the nerve toxins behind the cognitive impairment, potentially opening the way for treatments with existing epilepsy medications.

The research also showed that some who suffered from long COVID likened it to having a traumatic brain injury.

“We’re hopeful it will take another year or less to see some improvement in their condition but we just don’t know,” Professor Brew told media this week.

“The study has also identified a marker of cognitive impairment – a nerve toxin in a particular pathway in the brain, which opens up the possibility of repurposing existing drugs to modulate this toxin, which could potentially give us a treatment.”

The study, to be presented at National Brain Injury Conference next week, followed 128 patients at the hospital’s long COVID clinic for a year.

Progress on amniotic cell therapy for stroke

Human trials of a pioneering approach to treating stroke using amniotic cell-based therapy are being progressed by La Trobe University.

Partnering with the Hudson Institute and Monash Health, researchers have shown that injecting human amniotic cells discarded after birth can significantly reduce brain injury and aid recovery after stroke. The positive effects were significant when injected 90 minutes following a stroke, and with improvement seen when injected as late as three days afterwards.

The initial feasibility and safety studies were conducted by a team led by Director of Neurology at Monash Health and Associate Professor at Monash University, Dr Henry Ma.

The La Trobe researchers say they are now starting phase 2 trials that will enrol 78 stroke patients across 10 sites in Australia thanks to a significant philanthropic donation from The Beluga Foundation.

Lead researcher Professor Chris Sobey said the donation will enable large-scale manufacturing of the amniotic cells at a GMP manufacturing facility located within the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute (QIMRB).

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