Promising new biomarkers for concussion have been identified by scientists in the United States. The discovery could aid diagnosis and ensure early treatment for athletes who suffer mild traumatic brain injury.
After looking at the body´s inflammatory response to trauma, researchers at Brown University and the Lifespan health system found a panel of four readily detectable blood proteins which they say can accurately indicate mild traumatic brain injury within hours using standard, widely available lab arrays, and also help to distinguish it from other injuries.
At the moment, diagnosis of concussion is limited to cognitive measures that can be subjective.
Other researchers have made progress in identifying possible blood biomarkers for concussion, but this work tends to focus on detecting proteins released from dying brain cells. Those proteins are not always abundant after injury and can require proprietary antibodies to measure, according to study corresponding author Adam Chodobski, associate professor (research) of emergency medicine in the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
“Our approach was very different,” Chodobski explained. “We wanted to look at proteins that are produced in response to injury and then appear in the circulation.”
Armed with data from prior research in animals, the research team was able to identify four proteins (copeptin, galectin 3, matrix metalloproteinase 9 and occludin) that changed dramatically in the bloodstream of patients shortly after they suffered a concussion. The correlation of two of them – galectin 3 and occludin – distinguished patients who had concussion from those who suffered an orthopaedic injury, such as a bone break, Brown University said.
Although the study indicates that the proteins are readily measurable with standard assays, the team hopes to develop a microfluidic chip that can provide reliable readings within just two hours.
The results of the study have been published in the Journal of Neurotrauma.