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Blood samples reveal concussion evidence in new, lower-cost test

March 8, 2018

Red Blood Cells

Complexity surrounds brain trauma from diagnosis through recovery and long-term effects.

Modern medicine, however, has just made a major stride on the diagnosis side with the FDA’s approval of the first blood test to help detect concussions, or mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs). It promises simpler, cheaper, and potentially safer diagnosis.

CT scans, which irradiate healthy patients and can cost into the thousands of dollars, would be eliminated in at least one-third of patients suspected of having mTBI, according to the FDA.

“Over 90 percent of CT scans (for concussion) are negative. And you get 200 times the radiation of a chest X-ray. It’s expensive; it’s not terrific,” said Hank Nordhoff, chairman and CEO of Banyan Biomarkers, maker of the new test. He predicts the new test will cost $150 and be available in hospitals to start.

In a clinical study, the new test predicted the presence of intracranial lesions on a CT scan 97.5 percent of the time and the absence of lesions 99.6 percent of the time, according to the FDA. The study involved roughly 2,000 blood samples.

The test identifies two brain-specific protein biomarkers (Ubiquitin Carboxy-terminal Hydrolase-L1 or UCH-L1 and Glial Fibrilliary Acidic Protein or GFAP) that rapidly appear in the blood after a brain injury, according to Banyan. Elevated levels of the proteins can be detected within 15 or 20 minutes of injury, CNN reported. The test can be taken within 12 hours of injury, and results can be obtained within three or four hours.

Add concussion to the rapidly growing list of insights we can glean from the blood biospecimens. Researchers who are mining it for more breakthroughs can quickly and easily obtain samples – including whole blood, plasma, serum and buffy coats – through the iSpecimen Marketplace, an online platform that helps researchers quickly obtain the tissue, biofluids and cells they need from the patients they want. Researchers can specify patient demographics, diagnoses, medications, procedure history, outcomes or specific test result ranges.

In the case of the new concussion test, research on the blood has led to lower costs, less radiation and perhaps even better outcomes – not to mention a welcome dose of simplicity in a complicated field.