Immunohistochemical Examination of the Relationship Between Traumatic Brain Injury and Neurodegenerative Disease in Sixteen Clinical Cases
Smith, Margaret M.
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The relationship between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and neurodegenerative disease poses multiple unanswered questions. Researchers have hypothesized multiple pathways for the formation of pathogenic proteins after TBI which cause neurodegenerative disease. However, researchers do not know the exact mechanisms of protein formation, resulting in an unclear increased risk for development of a neurodegenerative disease later in life after TBI. This study aimed to explore the link between TBI and neurodegenerative disease by examining the brains of decedents with a history of TBI and comparing them to a control group. Using immunohistochemical staining, tissue slides stained for amyloid beta, phosphorylated tau, and TDP-43 were created and examined to determine BRAAK and CERAD score and make a chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) diagnosis. These parameters were used to determine if there were higher than expected levels of protein seen in the brains of TBI patients compared to a control group representing the general population. Statistical analysis showed the protein levels in the brains of TBI patients did not differ significantly from the control group. The results indicate these decedents did not have elevated levels of protein, which does not align with the described relationship between TBI and neurodegenerative disease. Short time periods between the experimental decedents TBI and death, combined with multiple confounding variables, including drug and alcohol abuse, place limitations on the ability to expand these findings to a larger population. Further research into fully explaining the formation of protein after TBI and research into CTE, a relatively new neurodegenerative disease, will help determine if the relationship between TBI and neurodegenerative disease is truly causal.