Blood Test for Brain Injury Faces Hurdles

Jan. 13, 2015

blood testThe brain’s unique process for removing waste may thwart efforts to create a blood test that can be used to quickly screen for brain injury.

New research published today in the Journal of Neuroscience sheds more light on the function of the glymphatic system, a plumbing network in the brain that uses cerebral spinal fluid to flush away waste.  The system was first revealed by UR researchers in 2012 and has been transforming the way scientists understand neurological disorders since.

It turns out that the glymphatic system is fragile and is disrupted during the shock of traumatic brain injury (TBI).  The researchers also show that common clinical approaches to TBI (medical and surgical interventions to relieve pressure on the brain and sleep disruption/inducement) can also impair the system’s ability to remove waste from the brain.

This has implications for efforts to develop a blood test to detect TBI because this approach is predicated on the theory that certain proteins that are released by brain cells during an injury would eventually make their way into the blood and could be used to measure the severity of the injury.

The new study indicates that – because the glymphatic system is often impaired in these instances – these proteins may not appear in the blood in levels necessary for a precise diagnosis.

You can read more about the study here.