The study of human brain tissue is unique in that it enables novel insights into human disease in a way no other research can. It highlights mechanisms of degeneration and brings to light new ways to diagnose disease before death and develop effective treatments. Dr. McKee's research is based on the following brain banks that she directs:
Alzheimer’s Disease Center
Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Brain Bank
Framingham Heart Study
VA-BU-CLF or UNITE
She also is Neuropathologist for the:
VA Gulf War
The VA-BU-CLF (UNITE) Brain Bank holds the world’s largest collection of brains from donors who experienced repetitive head trauma, over 650 cases, and the largest collection of CTE cases in the world (>350). Dr. McKee's research over the past decade has led the field in CTE and post-traumatic neurodegeneration and has been instrumental in changing public awareness regarding the late effects of concussion, subconcussion and blast related injury. Her work was fundamental to defining the neuropathological diagnostic criteria, staging scheme and clinicopathological correlations of CTE. She was the first to report the association between ALS and CTE. She reported the first case of CTE in ice hockey, soccer, mixed-martial arts , baseball, high school football, and college football. Dr. McKee reported the youngest athlete ever diagnosed with CTE (17 years). Her team defined the roles of other pathological proteins, TDP-43, beta amyloid, alpha-synuclein in the development and progression of CTE. Her team reported the association between high cognitive reserve and delayed emergence of clinical symptoms in CTE and the association between age at first exposure to football and the risk of cognitive impairment and depression in later life. Her team published on the roles of microglia and inflammation in repetitive head impact injury and CTE , the unique finding of the cytokine, CCL11, in CTE, on prion spread of tau in CTE, and the presence of prion disease in some individuals diagnosed with CTE.
Dr. McKee also helped define microvascular injury and the neuropathology of aging and Alzheimer’s disease through her work with the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center and the Framingham Heart Study.