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Mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) are prevalent and can result in significant debilitation. Current diagnostic methods have implicit limitations, with clinical assessment tools reliant on subjective self-reported symptoms or non-specific clinical observations, and commonly available imaging techniques lacking sufficient sensitivity to detect mTBI. A blood biomarker would provide a readily accessible detector of mTBI to meet the current measurement gap. Suitable options would provide objective and quantifiable information in diagnosing mTBI, in monitoring recovery, and in establishing a prognosis of resultant neurodegenerative disease, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). A biomarker would also assist in progressing research, providing suitable endpoints for testing therapeutic modalities and for further exploring mTBI pathophysiology. This review highlights the most promising blood-based protein candidates that are expressed in the central nervous system (CNS) and released into systemic circulation following mTBI. To date, neurofilament light (NF-L) may be the most suitable candidate for assessing neuronal damage, and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) for assessing astrocyte activation, although further work is required. Ultimately, the heterogeneity of cells in the brain and each marker's limitations may require a combination of biomarkers, and recent developments in microRNA (miRNA) markers of mTBI show promise and warrant further exploration.


Matthew I Hiskens, Anthony G Schneiders, Mariana Angoa-Pérez, Rebecca K Vella, Andrew S Fenning. Blood biomarkers for assessment of mild traumatic brain injury and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Biomarkers : biochemical indicators of exposure, response, and susceptibility to chemicals. 2020 May;25(3):213-227

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PMID: 32096416

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