By: Allan M. Siegel
brain injuries, or
concussions, are notorious for being difficult to diagnose. This is due in large part
to imaging tests, such as CT scans or MRIs, which are not always able
to identify mild traumas in the brain. Although doctors and specialists
commonly make diagnoses for concussions, they often do so as a result
of comprehensive evaluations, including discussions about the symptoms
victims experience after suffering head trauma – an approach that
causes many mTBIs to go undiagnosed and many patients to miss out on treatment
important to their recoveries.
In an attempt to address the difficulties of accurately identifying concussions
in victims and avoiding lasting neurological impairment, especially after
repeated occurrences, researchers from UCLA have been exploring new diagnostic
methods and a brain injury “signature” that can objectively
identify milder TBIs in their early stages. Their findings are suggesting
that certain biomarkers identified through blood tests may be the key.
According to researchers, four distinct biomarkers – proteins from
brain cells known as astrocytes – may be the “signature”
that can help doctors diagnose trauma and concussions missed by current
tests. These biomarkers are released instantly into the bloodstream when
the outer membrane of brain cells (astrocytes) rupture as a result of
blunt trauma to the head or sudden acceleration and deceleration of the
brain within the skull, which can occur when victims suffer whiplash in
Here are a few key takeaways from the research:
- UCLA neuroscientists and research staff mechanically placed trauma on human
brain cells and found that they leaked significant amounts of certain
proteins. Those same proteins were found in cerebral spinal fluid from
patients with confirmed traumatic brain injuries, leading researchers
to suspect that they could serve as biomarkers.
- In order to have viable ways of identifying those biomarkers, researchers
explored whether they could also be found in the bloodstream of victims
who suffered blows or sudden forces to the head. They analyzed blood samples
of victims who suffered brain injuries of varying degrees on the date
of injury and each day for the following five days.
- Findings of the blood testing showed that three of the biomarkers were
present in a victim’s blood as immediately as one hour after injury
– even when injuries were mild enough that they were not detected
by CT scans. They also noted that those three biomarkers were the proteins
released by damaged astrocyte cells. The fourth is linked to cell death
The findings are a significant breakthrough in the fight to better identify
brain injuries and treat victims, and they can have many beneficial applications.
This includes not only making it possible to accurately diagnose mild
forms of brain injuries, better monitor damage to brain cells, assess
severity, and guide treatment approaches, but also using simple blood
tests to make those diagnoses as early as within 1 hour of injury. This
can make a critical difference for all victims, including athletes who
can use test results to prevent repeated trauma and focus on rest and recovery.
As designated “Preferred Attorneys” for the DC Metro area by
the Brain Injury Association of America, our legal team has tremendous
respect for the researchers and medical professionals who expand our collective
understanding of brain injuries and ways to better diagnose and treat
patients. Over the past 45 years our firm has been serving victims throughout
Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, we have seen the tremendous impact
brain injuries and concussions can have on the lives of victims and their
loved ones, and believe the studies performed today will provide better
and more effective resources in the future.
As modern science continues to address brain injuries and their potential
for severe and lasting consequences, we continue to prioritize our role
as advocates for brain injury victims, both for the public at large and
victims who suffered harm as a result of negligence. If you would like
more information about your rights following a preventable brain injury
or concussion, including those sustained in auto accidents,
truck accidents, sports, or other accidents,
contact us to request a free consultation.