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“Tissue Bank” Created to Study Brain Injuries

DOD Live reported this weekend on developments coming out of the United States Department of Defense on the brain injury research front. As we have previously discussed, the Department of Defense is keenly interested in the issue, as brain injuries of different form are the number one injury affecting soldiers fighting overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. But for so common an injury, specific understanding of the causes and best practices for treatment are few and far between.

Recently, the Department convened a symposium with a wide range of groups and individuals at the forefront of brain injury research. The event sought to discuss possible collaborations and generally point toward the future when it comes to treating traumatic brain injuries.

As a result of the event, the DOD decided to launch the first “brain tissue repository” in the hopes of compiling a systematic record to understand the injury and ultimately find cures.

The assistant secretary of defence for health affairs explained that “the military health care system is bringing all the resources it can to better understand how to prevent, diagnose and treat traumatic brain injuries and to ensure that service members have productive and long, quality lives.”

The DOD Live article suggests that the tissue bank will be based at The Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine Brain Tissue Repository for Traumatic Brain Injury at the Uniformed Services University of Health Services out of Bethesda, Maryland. It will all be funded by a multi-year grant. In other words, this is a project that will hopefully be thriving for the long haul, with returns coming in as more and more is added to the bank.

The neurologist who will lead the brain tissue repository suggests that the main underlying goal is to develop a better understanding of the long-term effects of these TBIs. He explained, “We hope to more rapidly address the biologic mechanisms by which head trauma leads to chronic traumatic encephalopathy.”

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a familiar term for those following brain injury research developments. CTE is the same disorder that has been linked to NFL players, including those who committed suicide in recent years–like Junior Seau and Dave Duerson.

It remains unclear exactly how CTE affects those suffering with it. Unlike other forms of TBI, it does not necessarily come with obvious physical or mental impairments. Instead, the harm us more nuanced, with effects on general psychiatric health which in turn influence one’s ability to integrate in many social situations. The subtle nature of the injury makes it difficult to detect, and many who are hurt never come forward and receive any sort of aid at all. Instead, they often suffer in silence, assuming that their challenges are only related to some personal failures, not an actual medical injury.

As a group of attorneys who work with residents who suffer a wide range of traumatic brain injuries, we can only wish the best for these and related research projects. So many families find their lives turned upside down by TBIs, any advances that can provide some release and more hope are welcomed with open arms.

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