Traumatic Brain Injury Research

Traumatic Brain Injury Research

Traumatic Brain Injury Research

Investigating novel molecular imaging probes to detect TBI at the cellular level

From Innovation Magazine, Vol 1, 2012

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is all too common in modern military conflicts. UVA is finding a better way to detect it.

We are engaged in pioneering work that may lead to a handheld device to facilitate triage of TBI right on the battlefield. The device, a portable ultrasound unit, would evaluate brain tissue stiffness, which is reduced after injury. “It interrogates the tissue with acoustic energy to determine the overall viscoelastic response,” says James Stone, MD. PhD. and assistant professor of radiology and medical imaging at the School of Medicine.

Novel Molecular Imaging Probes

Stone and his fellow researchers, including Jason Druzgal, MD. PhD. and Greg Helm, MD. PhD., also are evaluating novel molecular imaging probes to detect TBI at the cellular level. The standard methods, anatomic MRI and CGT scans, lack detail about how the brain has been injured. “One of our goals is to see if PET, fMRI and DTI are more effective than anatomic MRI,” Druzgal says.

Effects of Repeated Detonations

In addition, UVA is examining the effects of repeated detonations on brain tissue in troops known as breachers, who use explosives to access mission targets. “We are trying to determine whether there may be a cumulative effect of repeated blasts, leading to traumatic brain injury, “Stone says.

UVA School of Medicine Vision

The research has received millions in grants from the Department of Defense and a most unusual form of support from UVA: It provided Stone a part-time research faculty position while he was completing medical school, residency and a fellowship in vascular and interventional radiology.

“The School of Medicine had the vision to provide this level of support for TBI research,” Stone says. “I’m not sure every institution in the country would have been so forward thinking.”