On average, 1.7 million Americans sustain annually some form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Damage to the brain from injuries encompasses everything from concussions or mild TBI to severe brain injuries that involve internal bleeding and long-term tissue damage. Patients can experience temporary or permanent physical and cognitive deficits, as well as social problems. Young children and the elderly represent two age groups with the highest risk of sustaining TBI, with teens most at risk for mild TBI or concussion.
While TBI – particularly mild TBI – is strikingly common, diagnosis and effective treatment are currently not available. To improve recovery for mild TBI, researchers from the neurotrauma and brain barriers research laboratory in the department of emergency medicine at Rhode Island Hospital, together with clinicians from Hasbro Children’s Hospital and the Andrew F. Anderson Emergency Center, have launched a collaborative project aimed at identifying serum biomarkers that would allow emergency room physicians to diagnose and predict outcome in mild TBI or concussion. Such biomarkers are expected to help identify patients who may need to avoid strenuous activities, follow-up with concussion specialists, receive individualized educational planning during recovery or receive other rehabilitative regimens.
In addition to their search for TBI biomarkers, the Rhode Island Hospital group, led by Adam Chodobski, PhD, and Joanna Szmydynger-Chodobska, PhD, conducts research on post-traumatic neuroinflammation and how to intervene to reduce the effects of inflammation on brain cell survival and recovery after TBI. Together with colleagues from Brown University, and from the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College, they have embarked on a project to test the efficacy of promising new treatment compounds. The group believes that collaborative efforts involving both basic and clinical research represent the most effective approach to improve medical care and patient health.