Florida company creates first device for finding traumatic brain injury
One of the most frustrating and discouraging aspects of concussions and other forms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) is that these injuries, as serious and complex as they are, typically don’t reveal themselves to even the most advanced medical imaging machines. Finding a TBI usually involves testing and observing the patient’s behavior, understanding the incident that caused injury, and connecting the dots. Even more severe forms of TBI can be missed by doctors, leaving patients with a multitude of emotional and cognitive problems to go untreated for days, weeks, or even years. Thankfully though, a test being developed by Alachua, Florida-based Banyan Biomarkers, promises to make diagnosing the presence of TBI a relative breeze.
Banyan Biomarkers was founded in 2002 to create the first Point of Care (POC) blood test that will be able to tell doctors definitively and quickly whether a person has a TBI. Just as importantly, the new test will reveal how severe the brain injury is.
Dr. Kevin Wang, one of Banyan Biomarker’s founders, discovered that following a brain injury, dying brain cells emit a protein that get into the victim’s blood. The level of those proteins indicates the severity of the brain injury, much the same way dying heart tissue emits identifiable proteins. According to Banyan Biomarkers website, “The detection and quantification of these biomarkers may provide early indications of brain trauma essential for earlier intervention and management.”
The importance of a simple, definitive test for TBI can not be overestimated. According to the Brain Trauma Foundation, 33 percent of veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan have sustained some level of TBI. Veterans’ advocates believe that 10-20 percent of veterans of those wars have received a TBI to some degree, meaning that between 150,000 and 300,000 men and women are returning home with brain injuries. The problem is so extensive that the Department of Defense has funded Banyan Biomarkers’ research and development efforts to the tune of $75 million, with additional funding coming from the National Institutes of Health.
Additionally, according to the Gainesville Sun, Banyan Biomarkers’ test “will provide a quick diagnosis with possible applications for the 1.7 million emergency room visits for brain injury and 400,000 sports concussions in the U.S. each year, as well as brain injuries from childbirth, seizures and drug overdoses.”
The TBI test is currently undergoing trials, including, concussion tests on Gator athletes and neonatal tests at University of Florida, according to the Gainesville Sun. Banyan Biomarkers says the device should get FDA approval sometime in late 2013.
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