A new, “state-of-the-art” blood test can identify the extent of brain damage in people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), it has been revealed.
The technology, developed by UK Dementia Research Institute’s (UK DRI) Care Research and Technology Centre, could be used to provide simpler, more accurate ways to predict those at higher risk of brain disease.
According to the report, an estimated 50 million people experience a serious head injury every year. But the extent and significance of each injury is extremely hard to measure without an expensive and cumbersome MRI scan.
The new blood test, however, is able to accurately measure a chemical biomarker to rapidly reflect damage in the brain.
The “cutting-edge” technology, known as single molecule array (SiMoA), measures sub-femtomolar levels of chemicals in the blood to analyse brain atrophy and, importantly, predict further nerve cell degeneration up to one year after injury.
Author Dr Neil Graham said the blood test could be used to provide similar information to MRIs but in a “more cost-effective and accessible manner”.
“I’m extremely excited by the ultrasensitive blood test technology we used here as it has opened up a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to precise injury diagnosis and prediction of outcomes after head injury,” he said.
“This is particularly useful in the area of dementia risk assessment after TBI, which is very challenging at present. If we could roll the neurofilament light test out across the country, it would be hugely impactful. We’re gearing up to offer it to NHS patients at Imperial in the near future.”
Professor David Sharp, co-author of the paper and Director of the UK DRI’s Care Research and Technology Centre based at Imperial College London, added: “Outcomes after TBI are very difficult to predict. Our work shows that measuring neurofilament light soon after head injury helps predict who will develop long-term problems.
“We are applying this in various contexts, including for the investigation of sporting TBI, and will be investigating whether this blood test can be used to predict those at high risk of developing dementia”
The study has been published in the peer-reviewed journal, Science Translational Medicine.