Seahawks owner funds research into lasting effects of brain injuries

SEATTLE -- Seahawks owner Paul Allen's foundation is giving a $2.37 million grant to Seattle-area researchers to investigate the lasting effects of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) suffered by soldiers in war and by athletes.

The grant was awarded over two years to the University of Washington and the Allen Institute for Brain Science. The team of researchers will analyze hundreds of samples of brain tissues, zeroing in on what goes wrong in the brain after a TBI and if there are any corresponding disorders and complications, a news release by Paul G. Allen Family Foundation said.

"The ‘perfect storm’ of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with TBI and PTSD, and the increased recognition of concussion in youth and professional sports has inspired  neuroscientists to better understand the short- and long-term consequences of TBI,” said Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Washington, and one of the primary investigators leading the project.

The Allen Foundation has generously funded a unique collaboration between some of the leading scientific institutions in the Northwest to answer the timely and much asked question of who is at risk of neurological consequences after a TBI, one of the most common injuries worldwide," Ellenbogen said.

“This grant will allow us to expand on our molecular and anatomical atlasing of the normal human brain to collaboratively analyze the long-term impact of trauma to the brain,” said Dr. Ed Lein of the Allen Institute.  “We will be able to leverage our technologies and the open access Allen Brain Atlas resource to share the data from this study to accelerate progress toward understanding of brain function and treatment for brain injury.”

More than 5.3 million Americans currently live with a TBI-related disability, and the World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, TBI will be the third-leading cause of death and disability for all ages worldwide, the foundation siad.

Research into TBI to date has focused on the immediate impacts of mild trauma, but the broader, lasting consequences of a single or repetitive brain injury are still unclear. There are currently no standard guidelines for physicians to determine if neuro-degeneration has happened after such an injury, making it difficult to diagnose or connect a TBI with complications that may occur years or decades after the incident.

In addition to determining late effects of TBI on the brain, the study aims to understand relationships between TBI and other age-related neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s; identify and characterize TBI-specific changes using state-of-the-art technology; and determine how brains are  impacted at the molecular and cellular level by TBI-related neuro-degeneration, the foundation said.