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Name You Need To Know in 2011: The S100B Blood Test

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It has been coined the signature wound of the Iraq war. Traumatic brain injury has been on the rise as improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan expose troops to more blasts and resultant head wounds than ever before.

While the military has long tracked and studied serious traumatic brain injuries (TBI), mild cases often go neglected as they are harder to spot, though they still hinder mental performance, and in many cases, cause permanent damage. Researchers have identified a strong link between concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder and even physical health problems three to four months after soldiers return home. For now, it’s up to family members back home to deduce whether something is mentally off balance about a loved one returning home from combat.

The standard screening tool for head injuries is still the CT scan or MRI—which shows bleeding in the brain but does not show more subtle injury to the brain’s neurons, which can cause permanent neurological defects. Some 95 percent of CT scans look normal for patients with a mild, but potentially life-changing head injury.

Enter the S100B blood test. Studies have shown the S100B serum protein biomarker to increase after a head trauma. If measured within four hours of the injury, the S100B test can accurately predict the severity of a concussion. The test is already used in 16 European countries as a screening device. In the U.S., two people—Jeff Bazarian, an emergency room doctor at the University of Rochester, and Damir Janigro at the Cleveland Clinic— are using the test as an investigative tool and trying to drum up interest at Roche Diagnostics to apply for FDA approval in 2011. “As an emergency room doctor, I’d like to see this yesterday,” stresses Dr. Bazarian.

Should the FDA approve the blood test next year, it could have a profound impact not only on the battlefield—in identifying soldier’s injuries, possibly sending them home and informing their long-term treatment—but also on the sidelines, for college and NFL players, and in the emergency room, where 1.7 million Americans are admitted with traumatic brain injuries each year.

Source: Forbes – Nicole Perlroth