Detecting a concussion within minutes may become easier, thanks to new technologies developed by an Alachua-based brain trauma research company.
Banyan Biomarkers Inc. announced on Jan. 24 that it received $300,000 from the National Football League and General Electric to continue its collaborative concussion research with University of Florida athletic physicians.
The research results from a finger-prick blood test, which reveals specific protein biomarkers that can quickly identify and measure the severity of a head injury.
Dr. Jay Clugston, a University of Florida physician who works with UF football athletes, said, “The ultimate goal is to develop an objective evaluation for the sideline.”
Clugston has been working with Banyan on this particular concussion research for about three years, and this grant will allow Clugston and Banyan to continue their efforts.
“From my perspective, the grant will allow us to collect many more samples after concussions and at the base line, that’s the biggest part,” Clugston said.
Dr. Jackson Streeter, CEO of Banyan Biomarkers Inc., said, “Discoveries at McKnight (Brain Institute) led to the identification of two proteins that come from the brain that are brain-specific and can be measured in the blood after injury.”
Streeter said he hopes the grant will aid in research at UF that will create a diagnostic test for sports concussions.
The two protein biomarkers, UCH-L1 and GFAP, rapidly appear in the bloodstream after a brain injury, he said.
Clugston said, “Sometimes athletes don’t look outwardly injured from a concussion, and they’ll tell you that they’re fine, or they’ll try to hide an injury from you, so they can keep playing.”
Clugston said 200 athletes in women’s soccer, women’s lacrosse and men’s football were chosen to enroll in the biomarker study because concussions and other head injuries are common in contact sports.
In addition to a quick diagnosis, biomarkers may be used to gauge recovery, Clugston said.
Fast results are crucial to determining whether an athlete is ready to get back on the field and even when military personnel are able to continue fighting tasks, Streeter said.
The test can also benefit young athletes in high school or middle school who obtain head injuries, Clugston said.
“Most concussions don’t need emergency room treatment,” Clugston said.
Most head injuries are not serious, but it is still important to get them checked, he said. Difficulty recovering from a prior concussion and close proximity of head injuries can increase the risk of future concussions.
“Currently, we look for a range of symptoms and signs such as confusion, headaches, dizziness, change in vision or balance or change in emotion,” Clugston said.
Each year emergency departments treat about 173,285 sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, among children and adolescents from birth to 19 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Streeter said, “Ultimately we want to see this test available in every emergency room throughout the world.”