New Blood Tests for Brain Injury and Concussion

Head injuries and concussions result in the release of chemicals from brain cells into the blood. and these can now be measured.

Two new blood biomarkers for brain injury called T-tau and S-100B may soon become routine tests to detect immediate and longer term brain injury following concussion. Researchers in a study funded by the Swedish Medical Research Council looked at the levels of these biomarkers in people before and after head injuries and they are reporting significantly elevated levels in people following head trauma. Levels of T-tau also appear to be proportional to the level of injury.

The Swedish study looked at blood levels of T-tau in professional hockey players before and after a match and report that levels of T-tau (total tau protein) in blood shortly after a head injury were not only diagnostic for clinically definite concussion, but were significantly predictive of persistent symptoms,

As previously reported on Total Health, the T-tau protein is also involved in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimers Disease.

The latest drugs for Alzheimers Disease target and inhibit production of this tau protein, because it is associated with nerve cell death and dementia. So, it makes theoretical sense that measuring levels of tau protein is also diagnostic for the presence of brain damage following concussion.

Unlike other biomarkers, Tau protein also seems to be pretty specific for brain injury as it is only released from neorones (nerve cells) in the Central Nervous System.

Tau Protein

 Work is now underway to make testing for elevated levels of T-tau protein available for all sports physicians and doctors.

The Swedish study was titled,

Blood Biomarkers for Brain Injury in Concussed Professional Ice Hockey Players and published here on JAMA.
A substance that can be measured to help healthcare professionals to assess normal processes, disease processes or a person's response to treatment. Full medical glossary
A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of all living organisms. Full medical glossary
A temporary brain injury, due to head trauma. Full medical glossary
Decline in mental capacity, brain functioning and memory that affects day-to-day living. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
Bundle of fibres that carries information in the form of electrical impulses. Full medical glossary
Compounds that form the structure of muscles and other tissues in the body, as well as comprising enzymes and hormones. Full medical glossary
A tube placed inside a tubular structure in the body, to keep it patent, that is, open. Full medical glossary
A physical injury or emotionally painful event. Full medical glossary