Scientists have come up with a new, quick way to detect brain injuries. Normally, doctors discover whether or not a patient has a traumatic brain injury through a CT scan, which is typically expensive and takes upwards of 30 minutes to perform.
To cut time and costs, scientists are using a handheld device that can deliver results within 15 minutes. The device is based on a fairly new blood test that uses a specific protein called GFAP as a biomarker to reveal the severity of brain tissue damage.
As reported in New Atlas, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the first blood test for concussion in 2018, which could reveal intracranial lesions through elevated levels of GFAP in the blood. It could detect brain injuries in a much simpler manner than expensive CT scans, but the results were only available within three or four hours. This new on-the-spot testing device, however, can make these kinds of assessments in minutes rather than hours.
Recently, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh conducted a study involving almost 1,500 traumatic brain injury patients and their blood, to investigate whether the warning signs can be picked up earlier in the piece. The subjects’ plasma was collected and analyzed by the device, with the scientists looking to GFAP levels to predict intracranial brain abnormalities on the CT scans taken thereafter. These results were compared to another biomarker released into the blood in response to traumatic brain injuries called S100B.
While levels of both proteins were heightened in the point-of-care analysis, GFAP substantially outperformed S100B as a diagnostic marker for traumatic brain injury. In fact, the device performed so well at using GFAP levels to predict the need for CT scans, the team says it can now provide a springboard for real-world solutions that offer results far more quickly.
The scientists estimate that the use of this new technology could slash the number of unnecessary scans by as much as 20 percent, which could save tens of millions of dollars every year.