Simple Blood Test For Traumatic Brain Injury
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
A simple and convenient test for the existence and severity of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is badly needed. Currently the only test for a TBI appropriate for use in the Emergency Room is the CT (computerized tomography, often referred to as “CAT”) scan. However, a CT scan can only determine if there is bleeding in the brain. If there isn’t a hemorrhage, the patient is likely to be sent home. Also, a CT scan cannot determine the existence of a concussion. Concussions (even those that do not cause loss of consciousness) are brain injuries that can be harmless and heal, or they can be fatal or cause major life-altering problems. Until now, there has been no way to measure brain damage.
Exciting new results show that the amount of a blood protein (BDNF, brain-derived neurotrophic factor) correlates with the existence of a TBI, when measured within 24 hours of the trauma. Patients with a TBI had less than one-third the amount of BDNF in their blood than did non-TBI patients. The researchers also found that patients with a TBI who had very low levels of BDNF recovered poorly. This is an exciting beginning because it will be routine to tell if there is brain damage in a person who may have been in an event that could lead to a concussion. A person who has experienced any trauma (like a motor vehicle accident, a sports-related injury, or domestic violence) can now be assessed for brain injury. Appropriate therapies can be considered immediately, instead of waiting for symptoms to appear.
Of interest to current TBI survivors is the possibility that continued BDNF measurements may correlate with the speed of recovery. This correlation needs to be tested – is a BDNF measurement taken months later still meaningful? Also, researchers urgently need to learn the molecular mechanism behind the lowering of BDNF with TBI. Do things that raise the BDNF level allow a patient to recover faster from a TBI? (Interestingly, omega-3 fatty acids and exercise raise BDNF levels.) (Full story)
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)
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