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6.21.2016

Miami Project Researchers Receive $1.6 Million Grant to Study Brain Temperature Effect on Concussion

W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D., Scientific Director of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and Senior Associate Dean for Discovery Science, and colleagues have received a $1.6 million National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke award to study the importance of brain temperature on mild traumatic brain injury or concussion. This competitive renewal application will be funded for five more years.

Over several decades, Dietrich, who is also the Kinetic Concepts Distinguished Chair in Neurosurgery and professor of neurological surgery, neurology and cell biology, and colleagues have investigated the role of small variations in temperature on neuronal vulnerability and functional outcomes after brain and spinal cord injury. This new study will clarify for the first time how relatively small increases in brain temperature at the time of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) or concussion can worsen outcomes and how best to manage this common neurological disorder.

The proposal is based on the hypothesis that mild elevations in temperature commonly present in people during strenuous exercise or sporting events, which can be a critical factor in determining outcomes. This possibility would be particularly relevant for civilian and military personnel with increased risk for brain injury who routinely engage in vigorous activities in high temperatures and humidity. Dietrich and colleagues will clarify temperature-sensitive cellular and molecular events underlying these consequences, including neuroinflammatory and microvascular perturbations.

“The growing appreciation for single or repetitive mild head injury potentially having long-term consequences, including increased risk for neurodegenerative disorders, requires more scientific research at the bench and bedside,” said Dietrich.

Dietrich will collaborate with several neuroscience faculty on this research, including Helen Bramlett, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery and The Miami Project; Coleen Atkins, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery and The Miami Project; Pablo de Rivero Vaccari, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery and The Miami Project; Robert Keane, Ph.D., professor in the Departments of Physiology and Biophysics and Neurological Surgery and The Miami Project; Miguel Perez-Pinzon, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neurology and Director of the Cerebral Vascular Disease Research Center; and Jae Lee, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery and The Miami Project.

The researchers expect this work to lead to a better understanding of why some people with head injuries recover from relatively mild insults while a significant percentage of others are left with more long-term emotional and memory problems. Also, novel or repackaged therapeutic treatments will be tested to target cellular and biochemical responses.

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