Concussion diagnosis and treatment are notoriously complicated by their subjective nature. Lacking a measurable, objective diagnostic, physicians must rely on patients’ reporting of cognitive effects.
Now that Holy Grail—a physical signal of mild traumatic brain injury—may be within doctors’ grasp. Alpert Medical School researchers identified a panel of four blood proteins that can accurately indicate concussion within hours, using standard, widely available lab arrays. The results appeared in the Journal of Neurotrauma in March.
“We wanted to look at proteins that are produced in response to injury and then appear in the circulation,” says corresponding author Adam Chodobski, PhD, an associate professor of emergency medicine (research).
His team found that, within eight hours of a concussion, concentrations of the proteins galectin 3, matrix metalloproteinase 9, and occludin increased four times, while the concentration of copeptin was three times lower in concussed patients compared to uninjured controls. The correlation of galectin 3 and occludin distinguished patients who had a concussion from those who suffered an orthopedic injury, such as a bone break.
Though the proteins can be measured with standard assays, the researchers want to develop a microfluidic chip that can get reliable readings within two hours—around the duration of many emergency room visits. Chodobski says they already have filed for a patent: “Our plan is to commercialize this.”