Portable Blood Test to Detect Brain Injury is Under Development

Certain types of brain injuries are notoriously difficult to detect. They do not show up on traditional imaging scans, and those who suffer brain injuries may not experience symptoms right away. Immediately after a brain injury rest, and sometimes medical intervention, can be crucial to survival and prevention of severe disabilities. A portable blood test is now being developed for the Department of Defense (DoD). This new test could mean that we can detect brain injuries immediately after they occur, on-site where they occur, such as on the battlefield and on the sidelines at sporting events, so that the proper action can be taken right away.

Developing the Test

The DoD and Abbot Laboratories will be working together over the next two years, in a $19.5 million contract, to develop the test. The test will identify two proteins known to be released in the blood after brain injury. These biomarkers can already be detected in the lab, but the new test is being developed to work with a handheld device in the field where it is needed most.

The DoD already has the device, also developed by Abbot, that will run the tests and uses it to measure kidney, liver, and heart function. Hopefully, within two years, the device will be able to run a test that can detect brain injuries in soldiers during training and on the battlefield, so that they can immediately be pulled from combat or training, preventing further injury.

The Future of Brain Injury Care

If this test is successfully developed, it could change the world of brain injury care. Today, even with the growing awareness of the long-term danger of concussion in sports, we operate mainly on guesswork when it comes to determining if someone has suffered a brain injury. We just don’t have the technology to detect what the symptoms do not reveal. And the symptoms may not show up, and in many cases those who have suffered a concussion with no loss of consciousness believe they are fine or choose not to speak up about symptoms.

With a handheld and easily administered test, the applications are limitless. In civilian use we could see a meaningful and effective change in the way sports injuries are handled at every level, including in child athletes who are so susceptible to deadly second impact syndrome. If first responders have access to these devices, accident victims who would normally refuse to go to the emergency room could find out if they need to seek medical care at the scene of the accident, rather than discovering after it is too late that they have suffered a debilitating or deadly brain injury.


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