UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas has announced its launch of the new Texas Institute for Brain Injury and Repair, a state-funded facility to promote innovative research and education, with goals of accelerating translation into better diagnoses, and revolutionizing care for millions of people who suffer brain injuries each year.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was a featured speaker at a dinner for supporters of the Institute following Friday’s launch event, which brought together state government leaders, supporters of UT Southwestern, and representatives from the National Football League (NFL) to celebrate this new program. Relying on UT Southwestern’s strengths in basic and translational research, the Institute will support research by scientists focused on improving the understanding of brain damage at the molecular and cellular level, as well as those seeking to identify new therapeutic opportunities, which could ultimately be delivered in clinical care settings.
In earlier comments, Mr. Goodell observed that “UT Southwestern’s proven expertise is what makes it an ideal institution to advance the diagnosis, treatment, and research around concussion and other types of brain injury. Their vision in addressing this public health issue aligns with the NFL’s work to provide resources that will lead to better education, prevention, and care for people of all ages affected by traumatic brain injury.”
“This Institute reflects an effort unprecedented in its commitment to address the devastating effects of brain injury,” said UT Southwestern President Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky in a release. “The initiative involves the entire community, from patients and parents to scientists and caregivers.”
“The expansive scope – from bench science to bedside treatment – and an intense focus on novel therapeutic advances already being developed at UT Southwestern will, we hope, lead to tremendous benefits for those with brain trauma. This includes thousands of military veterans, athletes, and accident victims in Texas and beyond who are dealing with this challenge,” Dr. Podolsky notes.
Each year, severe brain injuries affect 1.7 million people in the U.S., accounting for about 30 percent of all injury-related deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most traumatic brain injuries – about 75 percent – are concussions or other forms of mild traumatic brain injury, with sports-related concussions affecting about 3.8 million people in the U.S. annually. The U.S. Department of Defense estimates that since 2000, more than 287,000 U.S. service members have sustained traumatic brain injuries either in training or in combat. In Texas alone, more than 144,000 people sustain traumatic brain injuries annually, and about 5,700 are permanently disabled, according to the Texas Brain Injury Alliance, a clearing house for up-to-date information on brain injuries, caregivers, and survivors in the state.
The new Institute, which is a component of the Harold and Annette Simmons Comprehensive Center for Research and Treatment in Brain and Neurological Disorders, is a collaborative initiative involving local and national organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, UT Dallas and its Center for BrainHealth, Children’s Medical Center, Dallas VA Medical Center, and Parkland Health & Hospital System, as well as Texas Health Resources and Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine.
Establishment of the new Institute at UT Southwestern received significant support from the Texas Legislature, which provided a $15 million allocation — the largest commitment of funds for a brain injury initiative in state history. Representatives Jim Pitts and Dan Branch, who spearheaded the effort to secure critical state support for the Institute, also spoke at the launch event.
With its strong reputation for basic neuroscience research, UT Southwestern is serving as the centerpiece for the Institute. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Southwestern’s Neurological Surgery and Neurology and Neurotherapeutics departments among the top 20 in the nation. For decades, UT Southwestern researchers have improved the understanding of how the brain naturally repairs itself after an injury, including a traumatic impact, stroke, chronic conditions (such as Alzheimer’s disease), or brain tumors.
“We’re focused on everything from treating war veterans who are returning home and athletes trying to return to play, to maximizing the recovery of people suffering from brain injuries,” says Dr. Hunt Batjer, Chair of Neurological Surgery at UT Southwestern and co-chair of the NFL’s Head, Neck, and Spine Committee.
The Texas Institute for Brain Injury and Repair at UT Southwestern will focus on three key areas, each of which is expected to have derivative implications for patient care: innovative basic science and clinical translation research, state-of-the-art brain imaging, supported by UT Southwestern’s Advanced Imaging Research Center, which also receives state support, and community education and prevention strategies.
“The depth of our expertise across the spectrum of pediatric and adult neurosciences will allow us to do things that other big centers don’t even think about doing,” says Dr. Mark Goldberg Chair of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics at UT Southwestern. “We will draw on the great strengths of UT Southwestern in applying scientific rigor and commitment to improve patient care, and to addressing the most challenging medical needs.”
UT Southwestern will continue its cutting-edge research, including development of drug compounds and medical devices with the potential to reverse brain damage, identifying new imaging and neuropathological biomarkers that predict neurological deterioration after an injury, and provide insights into the process of nervous system repair, and conducting longitudinal research that identifies factors that predispose individuals to long-term disability resulting from repeated impacts to the brain. UT Southwestern, in collaboration with UT Dallas, is also working with former NFL players to diagnose and treat chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease.
Another key initiative for the Institute will be creating a comprehensive concussion network. This network will serve as a model for delivering brain injury education and consultative care to coaches, school nurses, athletic trainers, and parents. UT Southwestern also will offer a related sports medicine program for children and adults, a spinal care program, state-of-the-art imaging capabilities, neuropsychological evaluations, rehabilitation services, and therapeutic interventions.
“This new Institute is truly groundbreaking,” observes Dr. Batjer. “We see it as a tremendous opportunity to get involved and help solve some of the challenges associated with a prevalent health issue.”
UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in America, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty includes many distinguished members, including five who have been awarded Nobel Prizes since 1985, 19 members of the National Academy of Sciences, and 18 members of the Institute of Medicine, a highly esteemed component of the NAS. Faculty members’ investigations, ranging from the microscopic level to patient care as a whole, continue to bring about notable discoveries, important educational opportunities, and advanced treatment options for improved health care. Numbering more than 2,700, the faculty is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern faculty and residents provide care to some 91,000 hospitalized patients and oversee more than 1.9 million outpatient visits a year.
As one of the world’s foremost research institutions, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center fosters “no-fence” multidisciplinary research and rigorous scientific training in both basic and clinical research. UT Southwestern has an international reputation for life-changing research that has led to some of the most important discoveries of our generation, including the life-saving statin drugs.
UT Southwestern Medical Center’s clinical research includes the groundbreaking Dallas Heart Study which involved more than 6,000 ethnically diverse participants in Dallas County. UT Southwestern researchers found, among other results, rare variants of a gene responsible for reduced levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) among African-Americans. Further research showed that moderate decreases in LDL-C, early in life, could have a greatly beneficial effect on cardiovascular disease.
Basic research efforts include investigation of the molecular control of circadian rhythms, embryonic development, reproduction, and protein structure.
UT Southwestern also supports translational research – “bench to bedside” research that quickly moves basic discoveries into clinical trials that directly benefit patients. For instance, small artificial molecules called peptoids show promise as both diagnostic tools and treatments for various types of cancer. Peptoids can bind to cancerous cells more tightly than normal cells. Researchers are looking at ways to combine peptoids with anti-cancer drugs to target cancer cells more specifically.
The Medical Center has three degree-granting institutions: UT Southwestern Medical School, UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and UT Southwestern School of Health Professions.
The schools train more than 4,600 medical, graduate, and health professions students, residents, and postdoctoral fellows each year. Ongoing support from federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, along with foundations, individuals, and corporations, provides more than $418 million per year to fund approximately 3,500 research projects.
UT Southwestern has about 12,100 employees and an operating budget of nearly $1.86 billion. Funding from federal agencies, foundations, companies and private donors provides more than $417 million per year to fund the school’s research projects.
UT Southwestern Medical Center
UT Southwestern Medical Center