Characterising changes to the brain following a burn injury.

Miss Rebecca Ong1,2, Dr Andrew  Stevenson1, Dr  Jamie Beros2, Dr  Lucy Barrett1, Professor  Fiona  Wood1, A/Prof Jennifer Rodger2, A/Prof Mark Fear1, Dr  Alex  Tang2

1Burn Injury Research Unit, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia, 2Experimental and Regenerative Neurosciences, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia


Burn injuries are increasingly acknowledged as a chronic disease, often leading to life-long consequences that extend beyond the observable burn scar. Concerningly, recent studies report burns patients experiencing a higher rate of hospital readmissions for several chronic neurological conditions, particularly those affecting the central nervous system (CNS). However, there is little known on the molecular mechanisms that underly the development of these neural dysfunctions after a burn injury. To investigate the long-term effects of burns on the CNS, we looked at the gene expression profiles of four major cell types in the brain of our murine model (three-months old) of a non-severe burn injury. Using adeno-associated viruses, we labelled excitatory and inhibitory neurons with fluorescent proteins in the motor cortex brain region of mice (n = 10 burn and 10 sham). At five-weeks post-surgery, the mice were euthanised and the virus-labelled brain regions were dissected. Dissociation of the extracted tissue generated single-cell suspensions that were processed with fluorescent protein-conjugated antibodies targeted to label microglia and astrocytes, considered the resident immune cells of the brain. Together, the neuronal subtypes were isolated through fluorescent activated cell sorting. Using RNA sequencing, we have identified biological pathways that significantly differ between our burn-injury and sham groups for each cell population. Insight into the molecular changes underlying the pathogenesis of burn-induced neural plasticity may identify potential diagnostic and therapeutic gene markers to help mitigate the neurological risks burn survivors face years after injury.


Rebecca is a current honours student at the University of Western Australia investigating the central nervous system changes that occur as a consequence of a burn injury.

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