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A new blood-based test could make TBI diagnosis quicker and cheaper

January 7, 2021

Blood sample biospecimen in lab

A driver is confused after a crash. A football player staggers to the wrong sideline after a helmet-to-helmet collision. An elderly parent falls, then insists everything’s fine. Is there a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or is there not?

A new test being developed by UK researchers aims to provide a quick, clear answer – on the spot and without a hospital visit. The test involves drawing a small blood sample, running it through an optofluidic chip, and firing a beam of light at the separated plasma in a process called surface-enhanced Raman scattering. The light will cause a TBI biomarker to measurably vibrate or rotate, indicating the level of injury that has occurred, according to a news release from the University of Birmingham.

“We show that the device can detect N-acetylasparate in finger-prick blood samples from patients with TBI, and that the biomarker is released immediately from the central nervous system after TBI,” researchers wrote in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

TBI: Commonplace and serious

At last count, in 2014, there were nearly 3 million TBI-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S., according to the CDC. TBI diagnosis often involves a neurological exam covering thinking, motor function, sensory function, coordination and reflexes. A CT scan, usually in the emergency room, can uncover fractures, hemorrhage, blood clots, brain bruising and swelling.

The new blood-draw approach “is a relatively straightforward and quick technique that offers a low-cost but highly accurate way of assessing traumatic brain injury which up until now has not been possible,” said Dr. Pola Goldberg Oppenheimer, who led a multidisciplinary team of researchers in the advanced nanomaterials, structures and applications (ANMSA) group at the University of Birmingham. “The current tools we use to diagnose TBI are really quite old-fashioned and rely on the subjective judgement of the paramedic or the emergency doctors.”

The next step is attempting to miniaturize the technology for use on ambulances, at sporting events, in doctor’s offices and in hospitals for monitoring of progress.

Blood samples for R&D

As we’ve seen so often, blood samples have a lot to tell us, whether it’s pointing to the presence of cancer, autism, Alzheimer’s disease or other biomarkers for head injury. iSpecimen provides researchers with easy access to blood – whole blood, plasma, serum or buffy coats – and a broad range of biofluids from both healthy patients and those with medical conditions.

Researchers can quickly procure blood samples for their work by searching and selecting them from the iSpecimen Marketplace, refining if they wish by:

  • Patient demographics, including age, gender, ethnicity, race, and geography.
  • Medical conditions covering a wide variety of diagnoses.
  • Medications from a wide range of classes, along with outcomes data.
  • Medical procedures covering a wide spectrum of procedures.

The more we look at the blood, the more we learn.

Learn about the iSpecimen Marketplace where you can browse millions of richly annotated, de-identified human tissue and biofluid biospecimens, in addition to hematopoietic and immune cell products and COVID-19 samples. You can join for free and creating a login is easy. Request a quote or custom collection today.