Watch Dr Claire Shepherd accept her research grant and hear a bit about the project.
There is considerable scientific and community interest in the consequences of repetitive traumatic brain injury (TBI) and global public concern that even mild head injury may lead to a progressive neurodegenerative disorder known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in later life. However, the scientific knowledge in this area is preliminary and there is an urgent need for accelerated research efforts.
The current research program will investigate the presence of CTE in the brain tissue of a large population of well-characterised individuals held by the Sydney Brain Bank and determine any association with TBI exposure. One of the most promising and unique advantages of examining CTE in this large Australian brain bank cohort is that the donors are all collected through longitudinal, prospective brain donor programs.
This study will directly address our understanding of the relationship between TBI and CTE. It will also provide essential validation of current neuropathological diagnostic and staging criteria. In turn, this will help our understanding of potential disease progression. It will also provide essential information required for directing future research efforts to further advance the scientific knowledge, such as developing effective animal models of the disease, which are required to understand disease mechanism and test potential therapeutic strategies.
The generosity of the Brain Foundation has facilitated this research project investigating CTE in a large number of well-characterised cases collected through the Sydney Brain Bank. Brain donors are recruited through longitudinal, prospective brain donor programs with an interest in ageing and neurodegeneration. Donors participate in on-going health and lifestyle assessments during life so we are uniquely placed to examine the relationship between CTE pathology and clinical outcome. A large number of our cases also have a history of head injury (over 130 cases) or frequent falls (177), which will allow us to assess the relationship between these factors and CTE.
Over 2800 tissue sections have been cut and stained from 633 cases for the purpose of this project. We have assessed the presence and severity of CTE using the most recently published (2021) research diagnostic criteria and are now in the process of analysing the data.
This work represents one of the largest studies of CTE pathology in a clinically, well-characterised brain bank population. It will allow us to directly test the reliability and reproducibility of the most recently published clinical and pathological research diagnostic criteria and will determine the relationship between CTE, head injury and clinical disease. This work is of significant concern to the public as well as to athletes participating in contact sports.