Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta receives grant to study brain injuries

National Institutes of Health is awarding the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Neurosciences Program with a grant to study a potential breakthrough in the diagnosis of pediatric traumatic brain injuries, according to a press release.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Andrew Reisner and neuropsychologist Laura Blackwell will receive $466,650 from NIH to study a potential blood biomarker which could detect pediatric traumatic brain injuries, such as a concussion and the severity. Determining a biomarker for traumatic brain injuries in children could be a significant step forward in detection and treatment, potentially enabling appropriate prioritization in treatment, early intervention for complications and follow-up rehabilitation planning.

Current management relies on initial radiographic imaging and neurological examinations. There is no

simple lab test to monitor the progression of brain injury.

The study will focus on the potential of osteopontin, a protein in blood, as a reliable biomarker using blood samples from 175 patients under 21 years of age. The level of osteopontin in a blood sample immediately after a potential brain injury will be examined to determine its relationship to the severity and progression of brain injury. It will also be examined as a potential predictor of a patient’s physical and emotional capabilities six months after injury.

Traumatic brain injuries are a major cause of death and disability in the U.S. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention database, traumatic brain injuries caused approximately 2.5 million emergency department visits in the U.S. in 2010, accounting for 30 percent of all injury-related deaths and 138 deaths every day. The highest rate of traumatic brain injury-related emergency department visits by age group is for those between zero and 24-years-old, which are two to four times higher than the number of traumatic brain injury-related visits for those between 25 and 44-years-old.

Additionally, children who have experienced traumatic brain injuries are at greater risk of impaired thinking, memory, movement, sensation, emotional and behavioral functioning, which can negatively impact the individual’s quality of life and increase the amount of care needed throughout their life.