Blast Injury Program Leverages Expertise to Protect Against TBI
The Blast Injury Research Program coordinating office hosted its fourth State-of-the-Science Meeting Nov. 4-6 in McLean, Virginia, to guide future research on how to better protect and treat both civilian and Warfighter communities against mild traumatic brain injuries.
TBI is a major health issue in both military and civilian communities. According to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, approximately 295,000 service members sustained a TBI between 2000 and 2013. Despite extensive research in the areas of mTBI and concussions, medically validated threshold values for detecting mTBI have not been established.
Aiming to find solutions to this challenge, approximately 140 subject matter experts from the Department of Defense and other federal agencies, academia, industry and the international community gathered at the three-day event.
"This is a working meeting," said Michael Leggieri, director of the DOD Blast Injury Research Program coordinating office. "I'm going to be asking you to roll up your sleeves so we can figure this out."
Discussing the crux of the problem, Maj. Gen. Brian C. Lein, commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick, noted TBI was not a new issue, but the information needed to be coordinated.
"We've got a lot of data now -15 years' worth of data. None of that data is tied to treatment and none of that treatment is tied to outcomes," said Lein. "We've got to get after that, because if we don't, we're going to be in a lot of trouble."
Expressing the critical need for further research, Lein continued, "This group here, you've got years of work ahead of you and I need your commitment not just for the next two days, but next several years."
Conference attendee Dr. Nicole Zander with the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory noted she was looking forward to making contacts to assist her organization's research with explosives and the impacts of blasts at the cellular level.
"I'm hoping to build connections and look for collaboration for future research," said Zander. "It's really exciting to be here."
In 2006, Congress directed the Office of the Secretary of Defense to designate an Executive Agent to coordinate and manage DOD medical research efforts in preventing, mitigating and treating blast injuries. The USAMRMC was tasked with this mission on behalf of the Secretary of the Army, the DOD Executive Agent.
The PCO established the State-of-the-Science Meeting Series in 2009 to assist the DOD Blast Injury Research Program Executive Agent in identifying gaps in key blast injury research issues.
According to Leggieri, conference organizers will generate a report following the event that will help guide future research, ultimately improving the lives of injured Warfighters and civilians.