More Science and Insight into Biomarkers for TBI

We have--when the brain is injured, there can be diffuse brain injury that affects the brain indiscriminately and widely, or there can be what's called focal brain injury where you have a lesion at a very specific site. Already you've got a different kind of biomechanical insult. Then you can affect different kinds of brain cells. You can affect glia versus neurons. Then you can have different kinds of pathological cascades you can activate. I tell my students that having a traumatic brain injury is like sprinkling meat tenderizer on the brain, because one of the major bad guys in the players are the activation of what we call proteases that dissolve, that chew up proteins the way meat tenderizer makes meat tender. Well, there are different kinds of proteases that do that so you're going to have to treat-- and we know from our own work that the time course of producing these proteases is different in different time periods after injury, that diffuse brain injury has different biochemical events, focal brain injury. Without knowing that those events are for any individual, it'll be very difficult to treat them, so brain injury needs to go the way depression is, the understanding that medicine has to be personalized for the individual's response to insult and disease, and that's what biomarkers will help facilitate. We've already published papers showing, for example, that our biomarkers can discriminate between patients that have had a lot of injury to their glia or injury to their neurons. We'll know that those patients have different kinds of injuries, and when we develop the treatments, we can target those injury processes more directly. If we target proteases inhibiting the brain developing itself, we'll know which proteases are active in an individual patient and whether the drug we give them is helping them.

The more developed biomarkers become through research, the more clinicians will know about an individual injury — biomechanically in the brain — and then, the better they can develop and offer effective treatments.

See more videos with Dr. Ronald Hayes.

Posted on BrainLine April 2, 2013.

Produced by Brian King, Vicky Youcha, and Erica Queen, BrainLine.