In early September of 2009, The Department of Defense (DOD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) hosted the Military Health Research Forum (MHRF) in Kansas City, MO. The forum was dedicated to exploring new research on traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Military interest in brain injury research has increased dramatically over the past few years due to an alarming rate of servicemen and women who have suffered from TBI due to close range, non-impact exposure to explosive blasts and other combat-related injuries. The CDMRP estimates that about 20% of combat soldiers suffer from TBI.
Two programs of the CDMRP, the Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Research Program (PH/TBIRP) and the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP), funded studies on various issues surrounding TBI in combat soldiers, such as prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the condition. The researchers and funding agencies also hope the research will lead to improved care for civilians with TBI.
What follows is a summary of the research presented at the MHRF.
The US Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory presented research that demonstrated the value of new Advanced Combat Helmets. Their research revealed that paratroopers wearing the older Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops Helmet were 2.3 times more likely to suffer brain injuries than those wearing the Advanced Combat Helmets. The researchers said further research to improve helmets and armor systems is underway.
Clemson University researchers presented data on their development of an injectable hydrogel to promote brain tissue regeneration at lesion cavity sites in rats given TBIs. Researchers funded by CDMRP also performed neural stem cell transplantation into the injury sites and used the hydrogel, which mimics native brain tissue, as a carrier. They reported that functional recovery was significant after eight weeks of treatment.
Finally, researchers at Duke University presented research on their testing of three different biomarkers used to better evaluate the severity of and diagnose mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). Many patients with mTBI show no external signs of brain injury, thus a new method is needed to better diagnose the presence of brain injury in these cases. The researchers found that two of the three biomarkers, brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) and D-Dimer, showed a 92% sensitivity rate in determining the presence of intracranial abnormalities in diagnostic CT scans.
The vast and expansive collaboration of research and funding that went into all of the data presented at the MHRF will likely provide demonstrable advances toward the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of TBI not only in military personnel, but in civilian populations as well.