| January 24,
Penn's Head Injury Center Receives
$110,000 NFL Charities Grant to Study Long-Term Effects
Knocking heads is part
of the rough and tumble action of a football game, but
few things can sideline an otherwise healthy athlete
faster than a concussion. To study the long-term effects
of concussions, NFL Charities, an organization of the
member clubs of the National Football League, has awarded
a $110, 000 grant to the Head Injury Center (HIC) of
the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center.
Concussions have always plagued physical sports, where
contact is part of the game. But football players, such
as Troy Aikman and Steve Young, are only among the most
visible of the two million Americans that suffer from
traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) each year.
"People rarely associate concussions with what they
really are - traumatic brain injuries," said Tracy K.
McIntosh, PhD, the Robert A. Groff Professor and Director
of the HIC. "Brain injury is a silent epidemic in this
country, affecting more lives than most people realize."
In fact, the statistics surrounding traumatic brain
injuries are staggering. According to numbers compiled
by the Brain Injury Association, approximately 5.3 million
Americans - slightly more than 2% of the US population
- are living with a disability as a result of a severe
brain injury. TBI is the leading cause of death and
disability in persons under 45 years old, occurring
more frequently than breast cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis,
and spinal cord injury. Each year, approximately 100,000
people die from TBI, and 500,000 more are permanently
disabled. Every 15 seconds, someone, usually a young
person, suffers from a brain injury.
Despite these numbers, our understanding of the brain's
long-term response to injury is still incomplete. "A
brain-injured patient may look stable, but cells are
still dying. Realizing this is important developing
ways to recover, regenerate, and stem the loss of brain
tissue," said McIntosh. "We hope that by understanding
the molecular and cellular sequences of events after
trauma, well be able to determine when and where cells
die in the brain and use that information to develop
new therapeutic strategies to treat head injury."
The Penn HIC is one of seven nationally designated
Head Injury Centers by the National Institutes of Health.
As Director of Penn's Head Injury Center, McIntosh and
his colleagues and collaborators in Neurosurgery, Bioengineering,
Pharmacology and Pathology at Penn have made great progress
in understanding and treating traumatic brain injury.
Their accomplishments include the discovery of the
first link between traumatic brain injury and the development
of post-traumatic epileptic seizures. They were also
the first laboratory to identify the contribution of
programmed cell death, called apoptosis, in mediating
the progressive cascade of cell death observed after
TBI. Dr. McIntosh and his colleagues have also pioneered
research into the mechanistic relationship between head
injury and Alzheimer's Disease and other neurodegenerative
disorders and were the first to evaluate the efficacy
of neural stem cell transplantation as a potential therapy
for traumatic brain injury. Funding from the NFL Charities
grant will support McIntosh's efforts in furthering
NFL Charities is a nonprofit organization that was
formed in 1973 by the 31 member clubs of the National
Football League to enable the teams to collectively
contribute to charitable and worthwhile causes on a
national level. Since its inception, the Board of Directors
of NFL Charities has agreed to grant over $40 million
to over 250 different organizations. The current Board
of Directors includes Michael Bidwill, Hon. Jack Kemp,
Jeffrey Lurie, John Mackey, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue,
Delores Barr Weaver, and Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System is distinguished
not only by its historical significance - first hospital
(1751), first medical school (1765), first university
teaching hospital (1874), first fully integrated academic
health system (1993) - but by its position as a major
player on the world stage of medicine in the 21st century.
Committed to a three-part mission of education, research,
and clinical excellence, UPHS has excelled in all three
areas. This year, the University of Pennsylvania School
of Medicine was ranked third among all U.S. medical
schools by U.S. News & World Report. Penn ranked second
among all American medical schools that received funds
from the National Institutes of Health, perhaps the
single most important barometer of research strength.
Editor's Note: Learn more about the Penn Head Injury
Center at: http://bioeng.seas.upenn.edu/tbilab/