News FocusProfile: Kit Parker

Engineering a New Line of Attack on a Signature War Injury

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Science  06 Jan 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6064, pp. 33-35
DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6064.33

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Summary

Two deployments to Afghanistan caused Army officer and bioengineer Kevin Kit Parker to reconsider the focus of his research and to establish a project on a signature injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: traumatic brain injury (TBI). He has been back to Afghanistan twice more as part of a panel of experts convened to assess how the military handles TBI and combat stress. The Pentagon estimates that more than 200,000 U.S. troops have experienced TBIs in the recent conflicts, mostly from roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices. The long-term effects won't be known for decades, but there are already worrisome hints that TBI may compound the effects of combat stress and predispose veterans to the type of early-onset dementia seen in football players with a history of head injuries. Yet frustratingly little is known about the mechanisms by which an explosive blast injures the brain, Parker says.