Close-Range Blast Exposure Is Associated with Altered White Matter Integrity in Apolipoprotein ɛ4 Carriers.J Neurotrauma. 2019 Dec 01; 36(23):3264-3273.JN
Evidence suggests that blast exposure has profound negative consequences for the health of the human brain, and that it may confer risk for the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy and Alzheimer's disease (AD). Although the molecular mechanisms linking blast exposure to subsequent neurodegeneration is an active focus of research, recent studies suggest that genetic risk for AD may elevate the risk of neurodegeneration following traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, it is currently unknown if blast exposure also interacts with AD risk to promote neurodegeneration. In this study we examined whether apolipoprotein (APOE) ɛ4, a well-known genetic risk factor for AD, influenced the relationship between blast exposure and white matter integrity in a cohort of 200 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Analyses revealed a significant interaction between close-range blast exposure (CBE) (close range being within 10 m) and APOE ɛ4 carrier status in predicting white matter abnormalities, measured by a voxelwise cluster-based method that captures spatial heterogeneity in white matter disruptions. This interaction remained significant after controlling for TBI, pointing to the specificity of CBE and APOE in white matter disruptions. Further, among veteran ɛ4 carriers exposed to close-range blast, we observed a positive association between the number of CBEs and the number of white matter abnormalities. These results raise the possibility that CBE interacts with AD genetic influences on neuropathological processes such as the degradation of white matter integrity.