US Department of Defense
Advancing Blast Injury Research to Protect and Heal Those Who Serve

Simulating Traumatic Brain Injury In Vitro: Developing High Throughput Models to Test Biomaterial Based Therapies

Access the full list of previous Research Highlights to learn about the latest accomplishments in blast-injury research.

This review shows the array of current model systems that have been developed to study tissue-level regenerative therapies for traumatic and penetrating brain injuries.

Traumatic brain injuries are associated with some of the poorest outcomes in clinical practice. Such injuries can arise from blunt (closed) or penetrating trauma (open/pTBI). An injury track created by a foreign body (e.g. fragments or gunshot rounds) causes cavitation, shearing, and compression of nerve fibers and blood vessels, with damage to neurons and glia including myelin damage. The post-injury response mounted by multiple neural cell types includes microglial activation and astroglial scarring with the expression of a range of growth inhibitory molecules and cytokines in the lesion environment.

Current clinical interventions are supportive and truly regenerative/neuroprotective therapies post-injury do not exist, remaining a key goal for research in regenerative neurology. Model systems have been developed to assess potential therapies, using reduced-complexity preparations meant to elucidate the roles of the relevant cell populations and physiologic reactions. This study reviews common models used for the study of traumatic brain injury (ranging from live animal models to in vitro systems) and discusses their relative advantages and drawbacks for the developmental testing of biomaterial-based therapies.

This study and similar referenced studies show the status of and promise for the available interventions for both open and closed injury due to secondary blast (projectile) events. The cellular responses that are studied due to the traumatic injuries can indicate the pathology to be expected and the opportunities for acute and long-term treatment.

Sam Johnson draws meds for an emergency room patient at Brooke Army Medical Center
Figure 1. Sam Johnson, registered nurse, draws meds for an emergency room patient at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Oct. 13, 2022. BAMC's Emergency Department is the only Level 1 Trauma center in the Department of Defense. (U.S. Army photo by Jason W. Edwards)


Basit RH, Wiseman J, Chowdhury F, Chari DM (2023) Simulating traumatic brain injury in vitro: developing high throughput models to test biomaterial-based therapies. Neural Regen Res 18(2):289-292.


Supported by the UK National Health System and the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Last modified: 17-Feb-2023