A Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta program is receiving a $466,650 federal grant to study a potential breakthrough in the diagnosis of pediatric traumatic brain injuries.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Andrew Reisner and neuropsychologist Laura Blackwell will receive the grant from the National Institutes of Health to study a potential blood biomarker that could detect children’s brain injuries, such as a concussion, and their severity.
A biomarker could improve detection and treatment. There is no simple lab test to monitor the progression of brain injury, Children’s Healthcare said Tuesday in announcing the grant.
“We are thrilled to receive this honor and recognition from the NIH,” said Reisner in a statement. “Identifying a potential blood biomarker for traumatic brain injuries in children could mean physicians at Children’s and around the world would be able to provide even more accurate and informed care for their patients.”
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.
“At Children’s, our goal is to help kids recover from injuries and setbacks, and this study may provide us with another way to achieve that goal,” Blackwell said in a statement.
Traumatic brain injuries are a major cause of death and disability. The CDC says these injuries caused about 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 ER visits by age group is for those from birth to 24 years old, which are two to four times higher than the number of visits for those between 25 and 44 years old.
Children’s Healthcare said kids who have experienced traumatic brain injuries are at greater risk of impaired thinking, memory, movement, sensation, emotional and behavioral functioning, which can negatively impact their quality of life and increase the amount of care needed throughout their life.