Many victims of blast traumatic brain injury (TBI) are occupants of vehicles targeted by land mines. A rat model of under-vehicle blast TBI was used to test the hypothesis that the ensuing neuropathology and altered behavior are mitigated by vehicle frame designs that dramatically reduce blast-induced acceleration (G force). Male rats were restrained on an aluminum platform that was accelerated vertically at up to 2850g, in response to detonation of an explosive positioned under a second platform in contact with the top via different structures. The presence of elastomeric, polyurea-coated aluminum cylinders between the platforms reduced acceleration by 80% to 550g compared with 2350g with uncoated cylinders. Moreover, 67% of rats exposed to 2850g, and 20% of those exposed to 2350g died immediately after blast, whereas all rats subjected to 550g blast survived. Assays for working memory (Y maze) and anxiety (Plus maze) were conducted for up to 28 days. Rats were euthanized at 24 h or 29 days, and their brains were used for histopathology and neurochemical measurements. Rats exposed to 2350g blasts exhibited increased cleaved caspase-3 immunoreactive neurons in the hippocampus. There was also increased vascular immunoglobulin (Ig)G effusion and F4/80 immunopositive macrophages/microglia. Blast exposure reduced hippocampal levels of synaptic proteins Bassoon and Homer-1, which were associated with impaired performance in the Y maze and the Plus maze tests. These changes observed after 2350g blasts were reduced or eliminated with the use of polyurea-coated cylinders. Such advances in vehicle designs should aid in the development of the next generation of blast-resistant vehicles.
Keywords: acceleration; blast; blood–brain barrier; inflammation; synapses.