Home' Army Acquisition Logistics and Technology Magazine : Army ALT January-March 2012 Contents ASC.ARMY.MIL 93
In the search to improve outcomes
after the brain injuries that are a hall-
mark of recent wars, one answer may
be as close as the nearest coffeepot.
Because caffeine is considered the most
widely consumed psychoactive drug world-
wide, with high use among service members,
military researchers have been studying it
for several years. A DoD-supported civil-
ian team that has been exploring caffeine's
effects on brain injury outcomes recently
found that a high dose of caffeine, given
immediately after severe brain trauma,
reduces the incidence of death.
Dr. Detlev Boison's project at the Legacy
Research Institute was funded by the U.S.
Army Medical Research and Materiel
Command's Telemedicine and Advanced
Technology Research Center (TATRC).
The goal was to gain a comprehensive
understanding of the effects of chronic
and acute caffeine consumption before
and after the full spectrum of brain injury.
"Our most exciting finding is that a single
acute dose of 25 milligrams per kilogram
of caffeine, given immediately following a
severe brain injury in rats, can completely
prevent acute lethal outcome under con-
ditions that otherwise result in a mortality
rate of 40 percent," Boison said.
According to Boison, the team's data
suggest that caffeine is uniquely able to
counteract the effects of a deadly surge
in the brain chemical adenosine that
is triggered by severe brain injury. The
adenosine surge causes prolonged apnea
(suspension of breathing), the major cause
of immediate deaths following such injury.
Caffeine is an adenosine receptor antago-
nist, which means that it opposes the
action of adenosine by blocking its ner-
vous system receptors. Boison would
like to continue his studies of caffeine
by exploring its effects on long-term out-
comes after brain injury.
Dr. Brenda Bart-Knauer, who manages
this project for TATRC, noted that the
study is an excellent example of the early
"proof of concept" work that TATRC sup-
ports to encourage new directions that
may translate into better care for service
members. According to Bart-Knauer,
exploring the role of caffeine and adenos-
ine receptors in brain injury could lead
to potential applications not only for
physical trauma, but also for epilepsy and
"The team has already made a very excit-
ing discovery. If further studies confirm
that we can safely deliver a high dose of
caffeine to stabilize the brain after injury,
we'll have a relatively easy way to mitigate
damaging effects," she said.
Dr. Eugene Golanov, Director of TATRC's
neurotrauma research portfolio, said
that this finding opens the possibility of
exploring drugs that act on adenosine
receptors as an acute treatment for brain
trauma, even if the exact compound
doesn't turn out to be caffeine.
Both Bart-Knauer and Golanov pointed
out that further research is needed to
determine all of the mechanisms whereby
caffeine affects injury outcomes. For
instance, there are protective (A1) and
damaging (A2A) adenosine receptors,
and it is not yet clear exactly which are
blocked by caffeine. Studying the inter-
action of caffeine with sleep restriction
would also be important to the military.
Boison is inspired by the possibility of
employing a commonly used and safe
drug, such as caffeine, to save the life of
an injured Soldier. He said that while
studies continue, "a caffeine-based rescue
approach could immediately be imple-
mented to save the lives of warfighters
under conditions when lethal outcome is
---Courtesy of TATRC
CAFFEINE AND THE BRAIN
Because caffeine is considered the most widely
consumed psychoactive drug worldwide, with
high use among service members, a DoD-
supported civilian team has been exploring
caffeine s effects on brain injury outcomes.
Here, PFC James Russell, a cannon crew
member with 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery,
makes coffee in a kettle over a propane fuel
can during the Network Integration Exercise in
June 2011 at White Sands Missile Range, NM.
(Photo by SPC Latoya Wiggins.)
More Than Just a Cup of Coffee
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
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