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Mayo Clinic, U of M eye 'new frontier' in managing football-related concussions

A new research project headlined by Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota aims to learn more about the brains of healthy football players who have no history of concussions.

The partnership was announced Wednesday in New York by Thorne Research and ChromaDex Corp., with the study expected to begin next month and data collection continuing until March 2017.

According to a news release, healthy male collegiate linemen who have reported fewer than three career concussions will be enrolled in a randomized, placebo controlled, double blind study for 84 days. Participants will be given either a placebo or 750 milligrams per day of Nicotinamide Riboside (NR), which has been linked to increased energy and a healthy metabolism.

Dr. Xiao-Hong Zhu, of University of Minnesota, and Dr. Brent Bauer, director of the Well Living Lab and Director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, will conduct pre- and post-study evaluations that include a physical assessment, blood tests for safety and toxicity monitoring, blood tests for biomarkers, neurologic testing, quality of life questionnaires, and real-test measurements of brain activity.

"The possibility that NR might raise brain NAD levels opens an exciting new frontier in how we might be able to manage football-related concussion and other forms of traumatic brain injury in the near future," said Paul Jacobson, CEO of Thorne Research.

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The University of Minnesota Clinical and Translational Science Institute is supported by the National Institutes of Health, and one of about 60 facilities across the country involved in the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA). The CTSA program works to accelerate the process of translating laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, according to the news release.

The Mayo Clinic Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program was created in 2001 as a way to help address the increasing patient interest in wellness-promoting activities that aren't typically part of conventional Western medical care.

"Concussion is, of course, a huge problem today," Bauer said. "Much of the research has focused on diagnosis and prevention, but not much has been done in regards to develop a treatment for the chronic symptoms that many athletes (and other brain-injured individuals) experience. This study is a first step in exploring a potentially novel treatment.

Bauer continued: "It's a slow process in many regards — and lots of places along the way where our hypothesis about NR may not hold up. So while I am very excited to be leading this study and working with such a great group of collaborators, I want to emphasize that this is very preliminary work at this stage."

The concussion research comes at an interesting time in the ongoing debate about head trauma in football. The New York Times and the NFL are currently engaged in a war or words over last month's report that the NFL misled the public with its data. The NFL has fired back by threatening a lawsuit.

Additionally, about 1,000 former NFL players are suing Riddell , a helmet maker, for allegedly knowing the risks but hiding them from players.

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