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New Blood Test Diagnoses Concussion, Predicts Long-Term Disability

Protein levels correlate with brain-tissue damage (November 19)

A new blood biomarker correctly predicted which concussion victims went on to have structural damage of the white matter tract and persistent cognitive dysfunction after a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, in conjunction with colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine, found that the blood levels of a protein called calpain-cleaved alphaII-spectrin N-terminal fragment (SNTF) were twice as high in a subset of patients following a traumatic injury.

More than 1.5 million children and adults experience concussions each year in the U.S., and hundreds of thousands of military personal sustain mTBIs worldwide. Current tests cannot determine the extent of the injury or whether the injured person will be among the 15% to 30% who will experience significant, persistent cognitive deficits.

In a study published in Frontiers of Neurology, the researchers evaluated blood samples and diffusion tensor images from a subgroup of 38 participants (15 to 25 years of age) in a larger study of mTBI. Seventeen subjects had sustained a head injury caused by blunt trauma or by acceleration or deceleration forces; 13 had an orthopedic injury; and eight were healthy, uninjured, demographically matched controls.

The blood test given on the day of the mTBI showed 100% sensitivity to predict concussions leading to persistent cognitive problems, and 75% specificity to correctly rule out those without functionally harmful concussions.

If validated in larger studies, a blood test measuring levels of SNTF could be helpful in diagnosing and predicting the risk of long-term consequences of concussion, the researchers say.

Source: University of Pennsylvania; November 19, 2013.

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