Concussion Blood Test = Easy Diagnosis

concussion blood test

New study finds elevated levels of  certain proteins in the blood of people with concussions, a discovery that in the long run could result in a concussion blood test.

Concussions are a big problem especially in professional contact sports. Today, diagnosing a concussions involves subjective measurements, like cognition tests. A faster more precise way to diagnose concussions could help make it easier for physicians and help avoid further damage to the brain. Earlier studies have found substances that indicate seriousness of a concussion, but haven’t found a way to diagnose the condition. A new study from Brown university have found elevated proteins in the blood of people with concussions, a find that could help scientists develop a concussion blood test.

A Simple Concussion Blood Test

Lead Author Adam Chodobski describe how their approach differs from other groups:

“Our approach was very different, we wanted to look at proteins that are produced in response to injury and then appear in the circulation.”

These proteins (copeptin, galectin 3, matrix metalloproteinase 9 and occludin) increases rapidly in the blood after a concussion and two of them (galectin 3 and occludin) could be used to tell people who suffered concussions apart from people with broken bones.

In the study the research team recruited three groups of patients: 55 emergency room patients with diagnosed concussions, 44 uninjured people and 17 patients with long bone fractures. Blood tests performed on all patients measured a total of 18 pro-inflammatory proteins.

The blood tests revealed that people who suffered concussions had higher levels of galectin-3, matrix metalloproteinase-9 and occludin, within 8 hours of injury. In addition concussion patients had three times lower concentration of copeptin compared to uninjured controls.

The combination of elevated proteins in concussion patients was the key difference, even though some uninjured patients might have higher levels of one protein, none had higher levels of two or more at the same time. The difference in levels of these proteins persisted regardless of age, gender, BMI, or other medical characteristics.

Standard assays in use today are able to measure the levels of these proteins, but the research team goal is to develop a microfluidic chip in order ti make it easier to diagnose concussions using these protein markers. This chip would be able to determine the levels of “concussion proteins” within two hours.

In addition, researchers believe that the “concussion proteins” themselves could be treatment targets, the working theory being that some of these proteins could weaken the integrity of the blood brain barrier, an unwanted complication of concussions, leading to increased inflammation and further damage. Targeting the proteins in concussion patients might help mitigate the damage.

Image Credit: John Martinez Pavliga via, CC BY 2.0