From the machine guns and air raids of the World Wars to the lingering effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam, the threats that U.S. troops endure have continually changed with every era of war. No exception to this rule are the conflicts of Afghanistan and Iraq, which are the first in U.S. history to see improvised explosive devices (IEDs) – bombs detonated under artillery vehicles and on crowded streets, sometimes strapped to suicide bombers – as the primary mode of attack waged on U.S. soldiers. Young in their diagnosis but vast in impact, blast injuries from IEDs make up about 80 percent of injuries to U.S. troops returning from Iraq, and have earned the title the signature injury of these wars. The prevalence of injuries from this weapon of choice has elicited an onslaught of questions that researchers are scrambling to answer: What are the long term effects of these close-range, frequent blasts? How do blast waves impact soldiers in artillery vehicles differently than those on foot? And perhaps the most perplexing, how are these blasts causing traumatic brain injury, or TBI, in 10 to 20 percent of returning troops? Wayne State researchers, Dr. Cynthia Bir and Dr. Pamela VandeVord, and a team of collaborators are working to answer those questions with the project Blast Induced Neurotrauma, an investigation funded by a $790,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research and additional funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Using a state of the art blast tube – one of less than a dozen owned by U.S. universities – Bir and VandeVord are conducting an integrative investigation of “primary” blast injuries, or damages caused by the short duration, high amplitude pressure waves emitted from explosives. These injuries are now believed to be the reason behind the unprecedented number of soldiers that are returning from war with symptoms of mild to moderate traumatic brain injuries, many of whom don’t recall being hit in the head.
"Helping Our Heroes: Investigating Blast Induced Neurotrauma in U.S. Troops,"
New Science: Vol. 17
, Article 3.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/newscience/vol17/iss1/3