Blood biomarker points to post-concussion cognitive problems

Researchers in Pennsylvania and Texas zeroed in on a blood biomarker whose elevated levels they said help predict a patient's long-term cognitive disabilities after a concussion.

Calpain-cleaved aII-spectrin N-terminal fragment, or SNTF, is the standout biomarker. Scientists from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, along with a team from Baylor College of Medicine, conducted the research. The journal Frontiers in Neurology published details of their work.

They said a blood test based on the new biomarker would be a major advance over existing diagnostics in the quest to diagnose and predict long-term cognitive disability for concussion patents. Here's why: Current diagnostics can't measure the extent of the injury or accurately predict long-term concussion-related problems. Between 15% and 30% of concussion patients face major long-term cognitive issues, they said, including impairments involving memory and processing information.

While the study was small, the Penn and Baylor researchers said the data is promising enough to continue their work. They are plotting a second, bigger study to figure out when, after a concussion, would be the best possible time to measure SNTF in the blood in order to predict longer-term brain problems.

"New tests that are fast, simple, and reliable are badly needed to predict who may experience long-term effects from concussions, and as new treatments are developed in the future, to identify who should be eligible for clinical trials or early interventions," lead author Robert Siman, a research professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a statement.

Specifically, SNTF was twice as high in a subset of patients after a mild traumatic brain injury, based on a blood test that measured levels of SNTF. It achieved 100% sensitivity in predicting concussions, and 75% specificity to rule out whether patients' concussions indicated long-term harm.

Their study looked at 38 patients ages 15 to 25, 17 of whom dealt with a long-term head injury, 13 who faced an orthopedic injury and 8 who were healthy and without injury.

- read the release
- here's the journal abstract

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