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Blood test may signal severity of concussions

Drawing of human brain 1894-1895
Drawing of human brain 1894-1895
Wikicommons (US Public Domains tag)

Researchers led by Dr. Pashtun Shahim at Sahlgrenska University hospital in Sweden have developed a blood test to detect the extent of concussion injuries that may soon help determine whether an athlete is well enough to play.

The test zeros in on the brain protein tau produced by the central nervous system, and long targeted for its role in destroying brain tissue associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

According to Shahim, studies of injured Swedish hockey players uncovered that they sustained high levels of the protein in their blood.

“We knew that looking at the brain tissue from athletes who died that tau acculumated,” stated Dr. Phillippe Marambaud, director of Feinstein Institute of Medical Rearch’s Memory Disorders in Manhasset, NY. “So the new idea in Shahim’s paper that it is not only in the brain, but in the plasma is extrememly important.”

Currently, doctors typically scan for concussion by measuring rapid number naming with eye movements. However, being able to use an actual biomarker will not only enable them to make more accurate diagnoses, but also track a patient’s progress by monitoring the amount of tau in their blood streams.

Traumatic brain injury is diagnosed in more than 1.7 million people each year, with the CDC reporting thst nearly ¾ of the cases involve concussions caused by all kinds of accidents.