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Brain study leads to bone discovery

Posted: 19th September 2022

A study led by Monash University has resulted in a new area of scientific inquiry for SVI’s Deputy Director and leading bone biologist, Professor Natalie Sims. 

“I was approached by Associate Professor Bridgette Semple from Monash University’s Department of Neuroscience,” Natalie explains. “Bridgette and her team who study brain injury had some unexpected results from pre-clinical studies, which suggested that repeated concussions might result in thicker, denser bones in the skull.” 

“They asked me to help verify their findings and I was intrigued when I saw the results of their imaging data.” 

While Natalie’s research is focused on understanding bone structure and strength, bone changes caused by impacts to the skull had not been in the spotlight – until now. 

When we exercise, impact and loading normally makes the thickness of bones increase (for example, in weightlifting). The scientists showed in this study that this effect is also seen following traumatic brain injury. 

The Monash team, with Natalie’s help, will now work together to look at adaptive changes in the skull at a cellular level. 

“We now want to know what exactly is happening when someone experiences a head injury. How does repeated injury result in a thicker skull? And most importantly, does it help protect the brain tissue from further injury?” 

“We’re hopeful we might use this new knowledge to determine who is most at risk of brain injury due to concussion and how we can protect them from this damage.” 

The Monash-led study was published recently in Scientific Reports.