UNITE Brain Bank
The UNITE Brain Bank is the largest tissue repository in the world focused on traumatic brain injury (TBI) and CTE. The UNITE Brain Bank research team conducts high-impact, innovative research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy and other long-term consequences of repetitive brain trauma in athletes and military personnel. The brain bank contains more than 1,300 brains, including over 700 brains that have been diagnosed with CTE using the recently defined NINDS criteria for the diagnosis of CTE. For more information on the neuropathological diagnosis of CTE, please see The Second NINDS/NIBIB Consensus Meeting to Define Neuropathological Criteria for the Diagnosis of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
Dr. McKee and her team of neuropathologists and other investigators have published over 100 peer-reviewed papers and studies focused on CTE in highly regarded journals, and written over 30 grants to support the daily operations of the brain bank.
The UNITE Brain Bank:
Collects central nervous system tissue samples (brain, spinal cord and eyes) from deceased athletes to better understand the long term effects of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Researchers at the UNITE Brain Bank are dedicated to improving understanding of the long term consequences of mTBI and advancing the diagnosis, treatment and care and for Veterans and civilians living with mTBI and CTE.
Reports findings to caregivers in a timely fashion
Stores and distributes optimally prepared tissue to qualified researchers around the world
Shares data and other findings with other researchers
The UNITE research team is focused on developing:
- A diagnostic test for CTE in living persons
- Genetic risk factors
- Environmental risk factors
- The importance of age at first exposure
- The roll of length of playing career
- Treatment for CTE
All publication of findings are de-identified (without name and identifiable details) unless the CTE Center has received permission from the family to publicize the subject’s participation.
Family members of deceased athletes may donate their loved one’s brain and spinal cord after their death to the UNITE Brain Bank to be examined neuropathologically for evidence of CTE or other disorders of the central nervous system. The family member(s) will be interviewed for a history of their loved one, including their loved one’s athletic and concussion history, educational and occupational history, medical history and history of cognitive, behavioral, and mood symptoms.
For additional information, please contact:
For questions regarding your Brain Donation Registry Card, please contact Rachael Perkins of the Concussion Legacy Foundation at 857-244-0810 or email@example.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the UNITE Study Research Faculty
Daniel H. Daneshvar
Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School
Associate Professor of Neurology
Leader, BU ADRC Clinical Core
Investigator, BU CTE Center
Co-leader, Framingham Heart Study Brain Aging Program Clinical Core
Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, Ophthalmology, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Biomedical Engineering and Biomarker Core Co-Leader
Associate Professor of Neurology
Director, Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center Clinical Core
Leader and Director of the BU ADRC
Professor of Neurosurgery at BUSM
Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Anatomy & Neurobiology; Director of Clinical Research, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center
Students and Trainees
Brain Processing Staff
Research Assistants & Administrative Staff
Research Data Analyst
Social Media and Digital Marketing Specialist
Social Media and Digital Marketing Specialist
Stephanie Gonzalez Gil
Director of Legacy Family Relations, Concussion Legacy Foundation
Senior Research Program Manager
Research Program Manager
Pathology, the scientific study of the nature of disease and its causes, is the bedrock of medical research. Usually, before a disease can be diagnosed in living people or treated, it must be understood pathologically.
In 2009, only 51 cases of CTE had been studied pathologically and published in medical literature. By 2018, this number has risen to over 320 cases of CTE.
Much can be learned by combining pathology with a retrospective examination of the person’s life and clinical symptoms. Please review the case studies below. If the case is identified by name, the family has given explicit permission to share their story with the hope of increasing understanding of this devastating disease.
Mez J, Solomon TM, Daneshvar DH, Stein TD, McKee AC. Pathologically Confirmed Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in a 25-Year-Old Former College Football Player. JAMA Neurol. 2016 Mar; 73(3):353-5.View Related Profiles. PMID: 26747562; PMCID: PMC4792748; DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.3998;.
Lou Creekmur, a former Detroit Lions lineman and eight-time Pro Bowl player, died in 2009 from dementia. The CSTE examined Mr. Creekmur’s brain and found substantial evidence of CTE. There was no evidence of Alzheimer’s disease or of any other neurodegenerative disease. Mr. Creekmur was the tenth former NFL player diagnosed with CTE and the most advanced case of CTE found in a football player to date at the CSTE.
Figure 7 shows dense tau deposits (brown) in the insula (1), temporal (2) and frontal (3) cortices, amygdala (4) and hippocampus (5) in the absence of beta amyloid plaques. A normal control brain would not show any brown discoloration.
Mike Borich, a former college football wide receiver, died of a drug overdose in February 2009. Borich played for Snow College and Western Illinois University in the 1980s, and was later a football coach for the NFL’s Chicago Bears and multiple division 1 college teams. Mr. Borich was the first advanced case of CTE discovered in a college football player who did not play professionally. Mr. Borich also represents the first case of CTE diagnosed in a wide receiver.
Figure 8: Normal control brain tissue and Mike Borich brain tissue
Figure 9: Normal control brain tissue and Mike Borich brain tissue
Photomicrographs of normal control brain (top panels) and the brain of Mike Borich (bottom panels), immunostained for tau protein (brown) and counterstained with cresyl violet (purple). Virtually no tau deposition is found in the normal control brain whereas numerous tau containing neurofibrillary tangles are found in individual nerve cells of the brain of Mike Borich.
The first deceased athlete examined by the CSTE researchers was John Grimsley, former linebacker for the Houston Oilers and Miami Dolphins, who died in February 2008 at the age of 45 from an accidental gunshot wound. Examination of Mr. Grimsley’s brain confirmed extensive CTE. In both sets of photographs, below, the brain tissue has been immunostained for tau protein, which appears as a dark brown color.
Read more about John Grimsley
New York Times | 12 Athletes Leaving Brains To Researchers
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Tom McHale died in 2008 at age 45 from a drug overdose. Mr. McHale, Cornell University graduate, was a successful restaurateur and husband and father of three boys. He was the sixth former NFL player to be diagnosed post-mortem with CTE.
Read more about Thomas McHale
New York Times | Sixth N.F.L. Player’s Brain Is Found to Have Damage
Press Release | Boston University School of Medicine announces New Findings Linking Football and Progressive Brain Damage
John Doe (the family has asked to keep his identity private) was a multi-sport athlete who suffered multiple concussions in high school football. Analysis of Mr. Doe’s brain revealed the earliest evidence of CTE ever recorded.
Read more about youth football head trauma
Boston.com | Warning sign on youth football head trauma
Press Release |Boston University School of Medicine Announces New Findings Linking Football and Progressive Brain Damage
1. Gavett, B, Stern R, Cantu R, Nowinski C, McKee A. Mild traumatic brain injury: A risk factor for neurodegeneration, Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy, 2010, Jun 25; 2(3): 18.
2. Gavett B, Stern R. McKee A. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy: A Potential Late Effect of Sport-Related Concussive and Subconcussive Head Trauma. Clinics in Sports Medicine, 2011 Jan; 30(1): 179-88, xi.
3. Daneshvar D, Nowinski C, McKee A, Cantu R. The Epidemiology of Sports-Related Concussion. Clinics in Sports Medicine, Clin Sports Med. 2011 Jan; 30(1): 1-17, vii.
4. Stern RA, Riley DO, Daneshvar DH, Nowinski CJ, Cantu RC, McKee AC. Long-term consequences of repetitive brain trauma: chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Review. PMR. 2011 Oct;3(10 Suppl 2):S460-7.
5. Baugh CM, Stamm JM, Riley DO, Gavett BE, Shenton ME, Lin A, Nowinski CJ, Cantu RC, McKee AC, Stern RA. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy: neurodegeneration following repetitive concussive and subconcussive brain trauma. Brain Imaging Behav. 2012 Jun;6(2):244-54.
6. Stein TD, Alvarez VE, McKee AC. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy: a spectrum of neuropathological changes following repetitive brain trauma in athletes and military personnel. Alzheimers Res Ther. 2014 Jan 15;6(1):4. PMID: 24423082
7. Baugh CM, Robbins CA, Stern RA, McKee AC. Current understanding of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Curr Treat Options Neurol. 2014 Sep;16(9):306. doi: 10.1007/s11940-014-0306-5.
8. McKee AC, Daneshvar DH, Alvarez VE, Stein TD. The neuropathology of sport. Acta Neuropathol. 2014 Jan;127(1):29-51. doi: 10.1007/s00401-013-1230-6. Epub 2013 Dec 24. PMID: 24366527
9. Goldstein LE, McKee AC, Stanton PK. Considerations for animal models of blast-related traumatic brain injury and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.Alzheimers Res Ther. 2014 Sep 5;6(5):64. doi: 10.1186/s13195-014-0064-3. PMID: 25478023
10. Kiernan PT, Montenigro PH, Solomon TM, McKee AC. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy: a neurodegenerative consequence of repetitive traumatic brain injury. Semin Neurol. 2015 Feb;35(1):20-8. doi: 10.1055/s-0035-1545080. PMID: 25714864
11. McKee AC, Stein TD, Alvarez VE. The Neuropathology of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Brain Pathology 2015 May;25(3):350-64. doi: 10.1111/bpa.12248.
12. Daneshvar DH, Goldstein LE, Kiernan PT, Stein TD, McKee AC. Post-traumatic neurodegeneration and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Mol Cell Neurosci. 2015 Mar 7. pii: S1044-7431(15)00036-6. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2015.03.007 PMID: 25758552
13. Stein TD, Alvarez VE, McKee AC. Concussion in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2015 Oct;19(10):522. doi: 10.1007/s11916-015-0522-z.
14. Huber BR, Alosco ML, Stein TD, McKee AC. Potential Long-Term Consequences of Concussive and Subconcussive Injury. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2016 May;27(2):503-11. doi: 10.1016/j.pmr.2015.12.007. Epub 2016 Feb 2. Review. PMID: 27154859
15. McKee AC, Alosco ML, Huber BR. Repetitive Head Impacts and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.Neurosurg Clin N Am. 2016 Oct;27(4):529-35. doi: 10.1016/j.nec.2016.05.009.