ROCHESTER, N.Y. (NEWS10) — What if a simple blood test could not only help doctors diagnose when someone has suffered a concussion, but also determine when their brain has healed and predict how long that might take?
Justin Wurzer takes skiing to the extreme which sometimes, comes with consequences.
“I had headaches after that one for a while,” Wurzur, a student athlete, explains.
After his third concussion in sophomore year, he was sidelined for good.
“Right now, we have to try to determine when the brain is healed from a concussion without being able to actually look in at the brain,” said University of Rochester Medical Center researcher, Dr. Jeffrey Bazaeian.
Doctors have relied on indicators like headaches while trying to gauge imprecise measures like attention and memory. Now, along comes help from the brain itself.
URMC researchers discovered a protein called Tau that’s released into the blood when brain cell walls are damaged.
“We can find out whether there has been damage to the cells in the brain,” Dr. Bazaeian said. “It helps us diagnose that a concussion occurred in the first place.”
Researchers also found measuring Tau levels in the blood six days later could help predict which athletes were healed and which would take longer.
“That is a real challenge for us in the field to understand when the brain has recovered so here comes along a blood test, that takes away all of that,” Dr. Bazaeian said.
The next step is to conduct a large FDA study involving hundreds of athletes, which could take two years, and find a partner to pay the $1-2 million dollars that it would cost.