Concussions, which are actually mild traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s), often go undiagnosed and can lead to lasting neurological impairment, especially if the injuries recur. Researchers at UCLA have identified biomarkers that could aid doctors in the diagnosis of traumatic brain injuries with only a simple blood test. Brain cells called astrocytes, release proteins as biomarkers into the bloodstream when the astrocytes outer membranes rupture from impact or shaking.
Doctors currently rely on CT scans or a scoring system to describe the level of a patient’s consciousness after suffering a blow to the head. However, neither method has shown to accurately predict recovery or disability while milder injuries, such as concussions may not be identified at all. People with mild brain trauma, like those associated with athletes and military personnel, may not receive proper treatment and may also risk repeating the injury which can be life threatening.
Scientists have been searching for better diagnostic methods that have a “signature” that could more accurately identify milder TBI’s as well as evaluate the severity of the injuries to determine the best path for treatment.
The Means of the Study
Associate neuroscientist Ina Wanner, of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, used abrupt pressure pulses to mechanically “injure” human astrocytes. She discovered that these astrocytes leaked substantial amounts of certain proteins. When the team of researchers analyzed cerebral spinal fluid from TBI sufferers, they found the identical set of astrocyte proteins.
Wanner’s goal was to find out if these same proteins released through trauma were also present in the bloodstream. Shock waves are sent through the brain by any blow to the head. These shock waves tear apart cells and rupture cell membranes. Even following minor injuries, proteins enter into the circulation due to the numerous extensions from astrocytes that attach to capillaries and blood vessels.
The researchers analyzed blood samples from people who had suffered TBI’s of varying degrees of severity for up to five consecutive days, immediately following the injury. They found that three of the new biomarkers appeared in patient’s blood as soon as one hour following the injury, even in those that were undetectable by a CAT scan. It was revealed that those three proteins are released from wounded compromised cells. The fourth biomarker was solely associated with post trauma cell death.
The Future Impact of the Findings
For the first time it may be possible to diagnose mild traumatic brain injury and monitor the compromise of brain tissue as it occurs, from information acquired from this study. The technological advances that result from the research would be critical in diagnosing a concussion within an hour following impact and preventing repeated hits, promoting proper rest and preventing future issues.
If You Receive Any Head Injury
If you or someone you love receives a blow to the head, whiplash or a violent shaking of the head, it is extremely important to seek medical attention as quickly as possible. The symptoms of traumatic brain injury may not manifest until hours, days or even weeks after an injury occurs.
If you feel the injury was caused by the negligence or malice of others it is important to contact an experienced brain injury attorney to discuss your legal options.