Re­searchers col­lect brains to study battle-re­lated dis­or­ders

Business Mirror - - THE WORLD -

BRAIN sci­en­tists in Wash­ing­ton state are ask­ing the fam­i­lies of armed ser­vices mem­bers to con­sider one last con­tri­bu­tion. Re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton ( UW) and the lo­cal Veter­ans Af­fairs health- care sys­tem have be­gun col­lect­ing the do­nated brains of ser­vice mem­bers to ex­am­ine for pos­si­ble de­men­tia and other dis­or­ders linked to re­peated blast in­jury and head trauma.

The pro­gram, the Pa­cific North­west Brain Donor Network, is aimed at un­der­stand­ing the im­pact of mild trau­matic brain in­jury on ac­tive- duty mil­i­tary mem­bers and veter­ans. “We are go­ing to study these brains to the full ex­tent that we are ca­pa­ble,” said Dr. C. Dirk Keene, who leads the neu­ropathol­ogy core at UW Medicine. “They are so rare, so valu­able and just so pre­cious, and can give us so much in­for­ma­tion about what these ex­po­sures mean.”

Keene and his col­leagues, in­clud­ing Dr. Elaine Pe­skind, who codi­rects the Men­tal Ill­ness Re­search, Ed­u­ca­tion and Clin­i­cal Cen­ters at the Puget Sound Veter­ans Ad­min­is­tra­tion hos­pi­tal, will look for signs that ser­vice mem­bers with mTBI also may have de­vel­oped dis­or­ders, in­clud­ing Alzheimer’s dis­ease or chronic trau­matic en­cephalopa­thy.

Chronic trau­matic en­cephalopa­thy has re­ceived wide at­ten­tion re­cently after a large num­ber of for­mer Amer­i­can foot­ball players were di­ag­nosed with the neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der. Like foot­ball players, troops who suf­fer re­peated con­cus­sions or other head trauma might de­velop the de­bil­i­tat­ing con­di­tion, which is di­ag­nosed only after death. But, so far, lit­tle re­search has con­firmed any mil­i­tary con­nec­tion. “What’s been pub­lished pre­vi­ously is on the brains of five Iraq veter­ans,” Pe­skind said. “An­other pa­per will be pub­lished soon with an­other five veter­ans. There’s just noth­ing out there.”

Since the pro­gram started in March, re­searchers have ac­quired three brains. They in­clude do­na­tions from one mil­i­tary vet­eran, a mid­dle- age man who was not ex­posed to blast in­jury, and a mil­i­tary con­trac­tor, a woman, also mid­dleage, who worked in a war zone.

The do­na­tions also in­clude the brain of Cody Du­ran, 30, of Lake­wood, who died on April 5 from an un­known cause, said his mother, Vic­to­ria Padron. “I do­nated ev­ery­thing,” she said. “What­ever they could use, they could have.” Padron’s son wasn’t a vet­eran, but his young brain will serve as a con­trol, an ex­am­ple of nor­mal tis­sue against which sci­en­tists will mea­sure changes.

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