Elevated Levels of Neurofilament Light (NfL) Detected in Plasma and Exosomes of Those with Repetitive Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (mTBIs); Testing of NfL Biomarker Levels May Enable Early Intervention to Address Associated PTSD & Depression

A blood test may help researchers understand which people may take years to recover from concussion, according to a study published in the May 27, 2020 online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The Neurology article is titled “Exosomal Neurofilament Light--A Prognostic Biomarker for Remote Symptoms After Mild Traumatic Brain Injury?” The study looked at a biomarker called neurofilament light (NfL) chain, a nerve protein that can be detected in the blood when nerve cells are injured or die. Researchers found that, years later, people with a history of three or more concussions were more likely to have high levels of the biomarker than people who had not had a concussion. High levels of the biomarker were also associated with more severe symptoms such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression years after the concussions occurred. “While most people with mild concussions recover completely, some never get their lives back fully because of chronic disability,” said one of the study’s authors, Kimbra L. Kenney, MD, of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). “These people may benefit greatly from a test that could predict those disabilities years ahead of time. Our study found there’s great potential for this protein to predict the problems people with concussions may experience years after their injuries.” The study involved 195 military veterans with an average age of 38; 85 percent were male. Participants were divided into three groups: 45 people with no history of concussions, 94 people with one or two concussions, and 56 people with three or more concussions. It had been at least seven years since the last concussion for the participants.
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