Principal Investigator: Terrance Kummer, MD, PhD (WUSTL Neurology)
Co-Investigators: David Brody, MD, PhD (WUSTL Neurology), Gregory Zipfel, MD (WUSTL Neurosurgery)
Brain injury is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Sudden brain injury usually takes one of two forms: traumatic or vascular. Traumatic brain injury occurs when the head receives a severe external impact, possibly from an improvised explosive device, a car windshield, or even a barreling linebacker. Victims of such events may develop brain damage near the site of impact, such as brain contusions, as well as diffuse brain injuries resulting from ripple effects of the impact. The axons that make up the brain’s wiring are especially susceptible to such ripple effects, and diffuse axon injury may be the most important consequence of brain trauma.
Vascular brain injury takes the form of vascular blockage, causing strokes, and the far more deadly vascular rupture, which causes brain hemorrhages. Hemorrhagic brain injury frequently results in coma and long-term cognitive and emotional impairment, both of which are likely caused by diffuse brain damage. Although an enlarging bleed causes obvious injury to nearby brain tissue, very little is known about how hemorrhages impact the brain diffusely. New results from our group indicate that axon injury, so crucial in traumatic brain injury, also occurs during hemorrhagic brain injury. Our research is aimed at exploring this connection through the use of advanced brain imaging techniques available both in the laboratory and in the clinical setting. We hope to define a new class of brain injury—vascular traumatic brain injury—thereby connecting the large body of research into traumatic brain injury to a vascular disease process of particular relevance to our aging population. We believe that this framework will lead to new diagnostic and prognostic tests for victims of brain trauma, and help generate new targeted therapies.
Updated October 2014