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Doctors, Researchers Credit Estrogen With Improving Recovery Time

By Stuart Boslow, CBS 11 News
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Anyone could end up in the emergency room due to a car crash or another life-threatening injury. But North Texas doctors believe they may have found a wonder drug –– something that could help patients heal up to six times faster.

It’s something many have heard of before; especially women.

Nineteen-year old Adriana Camarillo and 57-year old Gary Sears have never met.  However, these two strangers have something in common that saved their lives and could save yours.

They’re part of a groundbreaking clinical trial in North Texas involving trauma patients.

“I try to remember it, but it’s blank,” Camarillo says about the day she was in a terrible car accident. “The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital during an MRI.”

She suffered a brain injury, broken neck and back.  Doctors said her initial prognosis wasn’t good, but Dr. Jane Wigginton from UT Southwestern Medical Center met Camarillo in the emergency room at Parkland and decided to help.

“When cells are injured or killed, they start sending out this signal for other cells to die,” explained Dr. Wigginton.  “You may end up with an injury that’s three or four times as large as that initial injury if you can’t stop those signals.”

North Texas researchers believe they’ve found a way to stop those signals by injecting –– of all things –– estrogen.

“You can see less brain cells destroyed if they’ve been protected with estrogen than if they’re not,” said Dr. Michael Ramsay, President of the Baylor Research Institute in Dallas.

He says tests on animals prove the female hormone surrounds dying cells, keeps them alive, and even begins to heal them.

“It’s a really incredible anti-inflammatory drug,” said Dr. Wigginton. “It decreases inflammation in all the organs all over the body.”

In fact, in those animal studies, when a single dose of Estrogen was used, the effects of the initial injury were lessened by as much as 65 percent.

However, no one had studied whether or not the science would work in humans –– until now.

“The evidence was just incredible to this being a really easy to give life-saving safe drug,” said Dr. Wigginton.

For the last two years, teams at Parkland and Baylor have used estrogen to treat incoming trauma patients, including men like Gary Sears. He was shot in the stomach during a random shooting last November.

“I felt the burn,” he said. “It just hit me and the sharp pain; and I looked down and seen the blood.”

Doctors gave him a dose of estrogen hoping to lessen the damage caused by the bullet, which remains lodged in his body today.

“Besides the pain, I really didn’t have many problems,” Sears said.

“This will have a direct clinical effect on you if you’re unfortunate enough to be in a car wreck or be injured in some fashion,” said Dr. Ramsay.

The next step is to get the estrogen treatment to trauma patients before they come to the emergency room.

“The treatment will be given by the paramedics in the field before the patient even gets to the hospital,” explained Dr. Ahamed Idris.

He says Parkland and Baylor will be teaming up with fire and EMS departments around North Texas hoping earlier treatment will mean even better outcomes.

“To be able to think that we could have an impact in the future on patients around the world that we’ll never see, never touch, is just an incredible feeling for a physician,” said Dr. Wigginton.

Sears and Camarillo both healed quickly, spending only a few days in the hospital. Doctors believe a single shot gave them a better chance at recovery.

“I think it’s pretty cool, I’m like guinea pigs,” Camarillo said.

The clinical trial has even caught the attention of the U.S. Military.

According to the doctors, the estrogen shots could soon be given to the troops as a first-line treatment on the battlefield.

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