November 25, 2015 by Canadian Underwriter
Blood tests for a brain protein could predict cognitive impairment in patients with concussions, researchers suggested in a study released this week.
Mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), or a concussion, “frequently doesn’t even receive medical attention,” the Philadelphia-based Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania suggested in a press release Monday.
“Concussion is often defined as a brief loss of normal brain function typically following a blow to the head,” the Perelman School added in the release.
The school added that studies “in recent years suggest that roughly one in five concussion patients suffers cognitive impairment lasting several months or longer.”
A study led by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine was published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica. The study was titled SNTF immunostaining reveals previously undetected axonal pathology in traumatic brain injury.
The concentration of SNTF, a brain protein, “rises in the blood after some concussions” and “signals the type of brain damage that is thought to be the source of these cognitive impairments,” the Perelman School of Medicine added.
The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services) and by the U.S. Department of Defense.
The researchers “sought to confirm that SNTF is a marker specifically of axonal injury in humans and in experimental studies,” Perelman School stated.
“The brain protein specifically indicates the presence of nerve fiber damage that we call diffuse axonal injury,” stated Dr. Douglas H. Smith, senior author of the study, in a Perelman School release. “Our findings also confirm that even relatively mild, concussion-type brain impacts can cause permanent damage of this kind.”
Dr. Smith is also director of the Penn Center for Brain Injury and Repair and the Robert A. Groff Professor of Neurosurgery.
Three of Dr. Smith’s co-authors Dr. Victoria Johnson, D. Cacy Kullen and Maura T. Weber – are from University of Pennsylvania. The fourth co-author, William Stewart, is from the University of Glasgow.
Recently, SNTF “was detected in serum acutely following mild TBI in patients and was prognostic for poor clinical outcome,” Acta Neuropathologica noted in the abstract to the study. “However, direct evidence that this fragment is a marker of [Diffuse axonal injury] has yet to be demonstrated in either humans following TBI or in models of mild TBI.”
Diffuse axonal injury “is a common feature of severe traumatic brain injury,” the abstract noted.
Blood tests for SNFT “might one day be used to diagnose diffuse axonal injury and predict cognitive impairment in concussion patients,” Perelman School stated in the release.
In severe and fatal cases of traumatic brain injury, “direct microscopic examination of the brain often reveals numerous swollen, degenerating, and even fully disconnected axons throughout the white matter — characteristic of diffuse axonal injury,” Perelman School stated. “Many brain injury specialists now suspect that this same type of damage, albeit less extensive, occurs in concussion.”