The DoD/USU Brain Tissue Repository: On the Front Lines of Investigating the "Invisible Wound" of Modern Warfare
Daniel Perl, MD
Seminar date: 1/11/2023
Description: Approximately 2.6 million U.S. Service Members have been deployed to the Middle East in the 20-year long War Against Terror. Almost daily, allied forces encountered attacks on the battlefield with high explosives resulting in traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) ranging from mild to severe. In addition, many of these Service Members experience repeated blast exposures related to their training exercises. The effects of these blast exposures have been called the “invisible wound” because numerous Service Members returned from deployment suffering from debilitating persistent neurologic and behavioral symptoms, in the absence of detectable abnormalities on routine neuroimaging studies. Despite extensive exposure from various military engagements, the medical literature offers few studies characterizing the acute or chronic neuropathologic sequelae in the human brain from blast exposure. To address this important gap of knowledge, the US DoD, in conjunction with the Uniformed Services University (USU), has established the DoD/USU Brain Tissue Repository (BTR), a brain bank that collects, preserves and researches brain specimens derived from deceased active duty and retired service members. The DoD/USU BTR currently contains 310 brain specimens, all derived from individuals who served in the military. Many of the donated specimens were from individuals who suffered severe and often multiple blast exposures while others had careers without any battlefield experience. In this presentation, Dr. Perl will review progress being made by the DoD/USU BTR towards defining the nature of the “invisible wound” through examination of this unique collection of donated brain specimens.