Concussion Biomarker Useful Up to 7 Days After Injury
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, September 21, 2016 12:00 AM

The promise of a blood test to identify patients with concussion and differentiate which patients may have more severe or persistent injuries looks closer to becoming a reality with the publication of a new large-scale study of two biomarkers of brain injury.

In their study of almost 600 trauma patients, 55% of whom had a mild or moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI), they showed that serum levels of two biomarkers — glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase (UCH-L1) — correlated with degree of brain injury, with GFAP being the more reliable of the two.

GFAP is a protein expressed almost exclusively in astrocytes and UCH-L1 is found in neurons

In a head injury, the astrocytes and neurons are damaged so these proteins leak out and small amounts enter the blood stream. At present diagnosis of concussion is based on rather crude and subjective measures.  We mainly just use symptoms, but these are self-reported by patients who may not be reliable. Some patients may have a CT scan but often patients with a normal CT scan will have long-term symptoms, such as problems with concentration, memory, sleep and anxiety.

The diagnostic tests based on these markers were at a late stage of development and could be available for routine clinical use in 2 years. They will help us determine if a patient has concussion and also select out those who need more intervention such as those with brain lesions or those needing neurosurgery.