The Department of Defense last week announced the establishment of the world’s first brain tissue repository on the Walter Reed Campus to help researchers better understand traumatic brain injury (TBI).
TBI is common among veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which led to the opening of The Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine Brain Tissue Repository for Traumatic Brain Injury at the Uniformed Services University on the campus.
Doctors hope by studying brain tissue with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disorder that disrupts basic human functions, they’ll be able to better address the problem in future patients.
Researchers will look at what blast exposure does to brain tissue and try to figure out if different forms of brain injury common in military veterans lead to the disorder.
Service members exposed to blasts “are coming home with troubling, persistent problems and we don’t know the nature of this, whether it’s related to psychiatric responses from engagement in warfare or related to actual damage to the brain, as seen in football players,” said Dr. Daniel Perl, neuropathologist and director of the repository.
In January, doctors at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda determined former NFL linebacker Junior Seau had chronic traumatic encephalopathy when he committed suicide in spring 2012. The Seau family donated his brain to NIH to be studied.
In September 2012, the NFL announced a $30 million contribution to NIH for the study of brain injury and concussion management and prevention.
The brain repository at the Uniformed Services University will be paid for through a multi-year grant from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.
“Our men and women in uniform and their families have sacrificed so much to keep our country safe. It is critical that we ensure our veterans receive proper care and treatment for injuries sustained in service to our country,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen said in a statement. “That is why I am pleased that the military has announced the establishment of the first brain tissue repository. This will complement the other outstanding work that is done at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, which we are proud to have in Maryland’s Eighth Congressional District. The repository will help researchers understand the underlying mechanisms of TBI, allowing us to learn even more about how we can treat these injuries and giving our military more information that it can use to work on preventing brain injury in the first place.”