New form of blood test detects brain injury

A new form of blood test, the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 14,  allowing for the detection of concussions in the course of only a few hours.

This new blood test was approved after six months of deliberation, a relatively short period of time, because the FDA designated it as a “breakthrough” product. This was due to the test’s ability to reduce the number of CT scans performed, reducing both patient costs and patients’ exposure to radiation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

CT scans, formerly known as CAT scans, are special X-rays that produce cross-sectional images of the body. They pinpoint the locations for surgeons to operate on. However, there is a slight risk associated with CT scans in the form of radiation exposure. This risk is eliminated through the administration of the newly approved blood test.

The Brain Trauma Indicator recognizes the triggering of activity for two brain-specific proteins in the blood within 12 hours of a brain injury. The amount of the two proteins — Ubiquitin Carboxy-terminal Hydrolase-L1 and Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein — in the blood can assist in recognizing brain lesions in patients. These brain lesions are visible in CT scans.

Traumatic brain injuries affect an estimated 10 million people per year globally, according to ABC News. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were 2.8 million emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths related to traumatic brain injuries in 2013. Fifty thousand people out of these 2.8 million visits have died.

Currently, the test results are available within three to four hours but Henry L. Nordhoff, an executive chairman and the CEO of Banyan Biomarkers, said that his company is working on shortening the time to under an hour.

The Brain Trauma Indicator was given revolutionary status. Accordingly, it is seen as only the beginning.

The company is bringing in two other companies to produce a smaller, faster blood-testing instrument within the next two years that could be used in ambulances, emergency departments and athletic training rooms.

ABC News wrote, “Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian, a University of Rochester emergency medicine professor involved in Banyan’s research … called the test ‘a huge step’ toward devising a blood test that can detect brain injuries including concussions” and that, “Dr. Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and other brain injury experts say the test is [not] sensitive enough to rule out concussions.”

Koroshetz warned this test is only the beginning. A successful test would uncover and evaluate treatment for concussions and traumatic brain injuries. This test would be like the blood test used to assess suspected heart attacks.

“This may be a beginning. It’s not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” Koroshetz told ABC News.