News Release

January 3, 2012

CONTACT: Kim Menard
(215) 662-6183

Perelman School of Medicine

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Dana Foundation Grant to Test Concussion Treatment for Athletes

Peter LeRoux, MD, FACS, associate professor of Neurosurgery in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, was awarded a 3-year, $250,000 Dana Foundation Clinical Neuroscience grant, to conduct a study using branch chain amino acids to treat concussion in athletes.

This translational effort started in the basic science laboratory of Akiva S. Cohen, PhD, associate professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. In an animal model of brain injury, Dr. Cohen's team found that feeding three branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), specifically leucine, isoleucine and valine, to brain-injured animals could restore a proper balance of neurochemicals in the injured part of the brain and restore cognitive abilities after injury.

BCAAs are needed to produce two neurotransmitters -- glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which function together to maintain an appropriate balance of brain activity. Glutamate excites neurons, stimulating them to fire, while GABA inhibits the firing. Too much excitement or, too little, and the brain doesn't work properly. A TBI upsets the balance.

With this grant funding from the Dana Foundation, Dr. LeRoux and colleagues Akiva Cohen and Penn Neurology resident Matthew Kirschen MD, PhD, will continue investigation of dietary BCAAs in patients with sports related concussion.

This is the first time that any faculty member in Neurosurgery at Penn has received a grant from the Dana Foundation, the private philanthropic organization that supports clinical research in neuroscience and neuroimmunology and their interrelationship in human health and disease.


Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2013 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2013, Penn Medicine provided $814 million to benefit our community.