Emmelyn Hsieh

Supporting Brain Glucose Metabolism in Traumatic Brain Injury Patients

Patients who have experienced severe head trauma are in a state where their brain exhibits impaired glycolysis by a process that is currently not well understood. Because the brain relies on glucose metabolism for energy production, the obstruction of its supply can lead to loss of brain function. Lactate is the final step of the glycolytic pathway, and as a result there has been speculation that infusions of lactate into TBI patients could give the brain another potential source of energy by bypassing glycolysis. For my project this summer, I have the ability to quantify the level of carbohydrate metabolism in the brain through derivatization of the plasma samples from patients treated with isotopically labeled lactate and glucose. Thus, my project points to the possibility that lactate infusion could offer a future alternative form of treatment for TBI patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Dr. George A. Brooks, my mentor, and his colleagues already have pilot data indicating that lactate may help in brain oxidative metabolism and its ability to generate energy for itself, and they are actively working on the planning and execution of clinical trials.

Message to Sponsor

This project inspires me as an undergraduate science researcher because our findings could lead to a more effective treatment to reduce long term damage in the brain or help traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients experience a faster recovery. The results could change a significant part of the medical field and directly affect the lives of both the patients and their families.
  • Major: Integrative Biology Major, Music Minor
  • Sponsor: Rose Hills Foundation
  • Mentor: George Brooks, Integrative Biology