Replicating blast-induced traumatic brain injury in the laboratory – A comprehensive approach


  1. Sawyer, T.W.
  2. Wang, Y.
  3. Josey, T.
  4. Lee, J.
  5. Ritzel, D.V.
Corporate Authors
Defence Research and Development Canada, Suffield Research Centre, Ralston AB (CAN);Dyn-FX Consulting Limited, Amherstburg ON (CAN)
The role of primary blast in blast-induced TBI is controversial. The identification of well documented clinical cases is difficult and rare, while the technical difficulties associated with simulating primary blast in the laboratory are considerable, resulting in an inconsistent literature that is difficult to interpret. This laboratory initiated a multidisciplinary effort in order to understand how primary blast impacts the brain and employed exposure and biological models of increasing complexity. A brain cell aggregate culture model system was developed in order to eliminate the complexity of an organism’s whole body response to shock and isolate the damage inflicted at the cellular level. Underwater blast allowed for exposures of the brain cells to free-field underwater shock waves and enabled the assessment of the effect of principal stress without shear or global acceleration. The highly hydrolyzed dialysis tubing used to contain the aggregates in suspension presented no barrier to the shock wave. Subtle biological effects were noted in these samples. An Advanced Blast Simulator (ABS) was then used to expose brain aggregates in suspension and enclosed within a spherical shell, to single pulse air blast. In this more complex and realistic exposure environment, significant differences in the biological endpoints were observed compared to those found in aggregates exposed to the single pulse underwater blast waves. Similar subtle changes were also noted when rats were ex
primary blast;traumatic brain injury
Report Number
DRDC-RDDC-2016-N030 — External Literature
Date of publication
20 Oct 2016
Number of Pages
Electronic Document(PDF)

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