A University of Adelaide study that will investigate the prediction of risk of long-term impairment and neurodegenerative disease development following traumatic brain injury has been awarded $1,987,160 from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund’s (MRFF).
Once thought of as an acute event, it is now recognised that traumatic brain injury (TBI) leads to long-lasting disability in a subset of individuals, including persistent impairments in memory, decision making and motor function. In fact, over half of individuals still report significant impairment even at 14 years post-injury.
“The MRFF funding will allow us to shed light on the brain mechanisms that may help to determine long-term outcomes,”Associate Professor Lyndsey Collins-Praino, Head of the Cognition, Ageing and Neurodegenerative Disease Laboratory (CANDL)
Additionally, multiple studies have found a TBI is associated with significantly elevated risk of developing neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, motor neurone disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
Of these, the strongest risk seems to be for the development of Parkinson’s disease. A recent study reported that even mild TBI increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 56%, while moderate/severe TBI increases the risk by 83%.
Associate Professor Lyndsey Collins-Praino, Head of the Cognition, Ageing and Neurodegenerative Disease Laboratory (CANDL) at the University of Adelaide, said the MRFF funding will allow critical research into the mechanisms that underlie persistent functional impairment and increased neurodegenerative disease risk.
“Right now, when an individual experiences a TBI, we don’t know what their long-term prognosis is. Will they recover fully or will they face lasting cognitive and motor impairment? Could they be at increased risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s?” she said.
“The MRFF funding will allow us to shed light on the brain mechanisms that may help to determine long-term outcomes. In order to do accomplish this, we’ve drawn together an interdisciplinary research team, who are leaders in their respective fields, and the latest research techniques. We’ll use a suite of innovative neuroimaging techniques, coupled with custom-designed cognitive and motor assessments and a cutting-edge panel of brain inflammation biomarkers, to track the progression of brain pathology as a function of both initial severity and time since injury in individuals who have experienced a traumatic brain injury.
“This is significant, as we can then compare this to the same markers in both healthy individuals and those who have an established diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. This will allow us to generate a unique brain injury neural signature. Then, using machine learning, we can generate a risk prediction algorithm.
“Ultimately, this will improve our ability to predict an individual’s long-term prognosis following TBI, significantly improving current clinical practice guidelines and allowing for earlier, more targeted therapeutic interventions.”
Professor Anton Middelberg, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) says the University of Adelaide has clearly defined industry engagement priorities in health, and a strategic commitment to tackling the grand challenge of improving health and wellbeing for the benefit of society.
“This funding will allow further critical research on understanding and mitigating the effects of traumatic brain injury,” Professor Middelberg said.