SEATTLE - Much work has been done on the immediate effects of traumatic brain injuries, but few have investigated the long-term consequences of these traumas. Seattle researchers hope to be the first to discover whether traumatic brain injuries could lead to harmful effects later in life, including Alzheimer's or Parkinson's diseases.
The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, founded by Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen, has given researchers at the University of Washington and Allen Institute for Brain Science a $2.37 million grant to fund the first-ever study to look at the lasting effects of traumatic brain injuries.
For two years, researchers will analyze hundreds of brain samples from the Group Health Research Institute to determine what goes wrong in the brain after an injury and if the trauma leads to any disorders and complications, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.
Research into traumatic brain injuries to date has focused on the immediate impacts of mild trauma. The broader, lasting consequences of a single or repetitive brain injury are still unclear.
Dr. Ed Lein, investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, said there are currently no standard guidelines for physicians to determine if neurodegeneration has happened after such an injury, making it difficult to connect a traumatic brain injury with complications that may occur years or decades after the incident.
"Awareness of TBI (traumatic brain injuries) has grown in recent years, but our understanding of what actually happens to the brain in the years following that type of injury is still a great mystery," said Susan Coliton, vice president of The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. "This unmatched investigation into the long-term impacts of TBI is bold discovery science at its best, and we are proud to support this important work."
Study results will be loaded into the Allen Brain Atlas web portal, where researchers around the world can access the new data for free.
"Our hope is to provide a rich data set many researchers can use to develop new diagnostics and therapeutics," Lien said.
More than 5.3 million Americans currently live with a disability related to a traumatic brain injury. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, traumatic brain injuries will be the third-leading cause of death and disability for all ages worldwide.