Bahr Lab’s Paper on Traumatic Brain Injury Makes Headline News

Lead author Michael Almeida (left) and Dr. Ben Bahr of the William C. Friday Laboratory & Alzheimer's Disease Research Laboratory
Lead author Michael Almeida (left) and Dr. Ben Bahr of the William C. Friday Laboratory & Alzheimer's Disease Research Laboratory

Ben Bahr’s lab has made dramatic and award-winning progress in understanding and addressing the underlying causes and risk factors with regard to Alzheimer’s disease.  In collaboration with researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the National Institutes of Health, the Bahr Lab is now in the international spotlight for their ground-breaking work on brain injuries caused by exposure to military blasts.  Bahr’s research associate Michael Almeida is the lead author on the multi-author paper, “Distinct and dementia-related synaptopathy in the hippocampus after military blast exposures,” which appeared in the February 2021 issue of the peer-reviewed, open-access journal Brain Pathology, the official journal of the International Society of Neuropathology. 

After its release by UNCP News, the story was picked up by a dozen news outlets and websites, including the Washington Times, the Daily Mail in London, and ScienceDaily.  According to Bahr, “Michael did a great job with the major collaborative effort,” and Michael is already working on a follow-up manuscript, which is to be co-authored with one more undergraduate researchers, including pre-medical (Chemistry) student Minh Giang.  “Such co-training of student researchers in the Bahr Lab also led to a $250 prize awarded to Michael Almeida for being nominated for the 2020 Spirit of North Carolina Award for Excellence.”

Their study found that shockwaves caused by blasts can lead to dementia and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Military troops exposed to blasts, but who have not suffered traumatic brain injury, could be at greater risk of developing neurological problems, and exposure to even small explosions may lead to changes in the brain’s synaptic function.  The study’s findings may help to explain chronic symptoms including headaches, depression, and memory problems. 

Dr. Daniel Perl, Professor of Pathology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, wrote this about the study, “To be able to bridge the gap between what is seen in the laboratory using experimental models and what actually happens to the brains of Service Members on the battlefield, is one of the most important aspects of the work… to address the many issues facing our brave men and women in uniform.”

Dr. Ben Bahr is the principal investigator on the study and is the William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at UNC Pembroke.  Michael Almeida is the Research Specialist and Lab Manager of the William C. Friday Laboratory & Alzheimer's Disease Research Laboratory, and a Ph.D. student at UNC Wilmington.  Other members of the Bahr Lab who contributed to the study were 2018 UNCP graduate Christopher Norton, and UNCP faculty members Drs. Catherine Parisian (English) and Karen Farizatto (Biology).