Tetracycline and Protecting the Brain

In 2014, a group of Turkish scientists from various neurosurgery clinics wanted to find a medical treatment to lessen the damage to the brain caused by traumatic brain injuries, like concussion.

Led by Ozhan Uckun, the team tested tetracycline [te-TRA-sci-clean], a chemical that prevents or inhibits the growth of microorganisms, shown to have protective effects on the brain. These protective qualities include the inhibition of protein cutting enzymes (similar to the ones in your stomach) caspase 1 and 3 and nitric oxide synthase, other protein degraders, and the killing of nerve cells.

Photo by vaun0815 on Unsplash

The team took 32 male rats and split them into 4 experimental groups: Group 1 — a control with no head trauma, Group 2 — a control for the head trauma, Group 3 — head trauma and a saline solution, and Group 4 — head trauma with the saline and tetracycline.

Group | Test

1 | No head trauma

2 | Head trauma

3 | Head trauma, saline solution injection

4 | Head trauma, saline solution injection, tetracycline injection

Uckun and his 11 colleagues dropped a 24 gram weight from 10 centimetres above the rats’ heads to incite a traumatic brain injury. They injected the solutions for groups 3 and 4. After 24 hours, Uckun decapitated the all of the rats, only after they injected with an anesthetic overdose to kill them. The group then cut into the rats’ skulls to expose their brains. Uckun and his colleagues harvested and incubated chunks of the rats’ brains for another 24 hours.

Uckun and his colleagues found that the difference between groups 2 and 3 showed no difference in their lipid peroxidation levels. Lipid peroxidation is when free radical ions (a charged particle) collide with healthy cells and steal their electrons (a negatively charged subparticle). By stealing electrons, free radicals damage healthy cells.

Group 4, the group injected with tetracycline, showed a large improvement in the lipid peroxidation. The improvement meant that there was less damage to the brain cells.

Group 2 and 3, once again, showed no difference when Uckun and his group looked at the mitochondria and axon cells for damage. These groups had significant damage to the myelin (a sheath protecting the tail of a neuron) and mitochondria (the powerhouse of a cell).

Group 4 showed little to no damage in to the mitochondria and axons. However, Uckun and his colleagues detected damage some damage to the mitochondria. The damage was not as severe as the damage in groups 2 and 3.

Uckun and his group of researchers concluded that tetracycline was beneficial in healing the damage traumatic brain injury causes. It prevented most of the damage observed in the rats that were not treated with tetracycline.


Uckun, O., Alagoz, F., Secer, M., Karakoyun, O., Ocakcioglu, A., Yildirim, A., Yilmaz, F., Sahinoglu, M., Denizhan, D., Dalgic, A., Dagliglu, E., Belen, A., (2015). Neuroprotective effects of tetracyclines on blunt head trauma: an experimental study on rats. Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice, 6(1): 27–32. doi:10.4103/0976–3147.143186




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Lauren Tashiro

Lauren Tashiro

A Technical Writer trying to become an Author | Writing Without Thinking Too Hard

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