Serum Biomarkers for Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is frequently associated with abnormal blood-brain barrier function, resulting in the release of factors that can be used as molecular biomarkers of TBI, among them GFAP, UCH-L1, S100B, and NSE. Although many experimental studies have been conducted, clinical consolidation of these biomarkers is still needed to increase the predictive power and reduce the poor outcome of TBI. Interestingly, several of these TBI biomarkers are oxidatively modified to carbonyl groups, indicating that markers of oxidative stress could be of predictive value for the selection of therapeutic strategies 1).
Unlike other organ-based diseases where rapid diagnosis employing biomarkers from blood tests are clinically essential to guide diagnosis and treatment, there are no rapid, definitive diagnostic blood tests for TBI. Over the last decade there has been a myriad of studies exploring many promising biomarkers. Despite the large number of published studies there is still a lack of any FDA-approved biomarkers for clinical use in adults and children. There is now an important need to validate and introduce them into the clinical setting 2).
Richter et al. aimed to assess if day of injury serum protein biomarkers could identify critically ill TBI patients in whom the risks of transfer are compensated by the likelihood of detecting management-altering neuroimaging findings.
Data were obtained from the Collaborative European NeuroTrauma Effectiveness Research in Traumatic Brain Injury (CENTER-TBI) study. Eligibility criteria included: TBI patients aged ≥ 16 years, Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) < 13 or patient intubated with unrecorded pre-intubation GCS, CT with Marshall score < 3, serum biomarkers (GFAP, NFL, NSE, S100B, Tau, UCH-L1) sampled ≤ 24 h of injury, MRI < 30 days of injury. The degree of axonal injury on MRI was graded using the Adams-Gentry classification. The association between serum concentrations of biomarkers and Adams-Gentry stage was assessed and the optimum threshold concentration identified, assuming different minimum sensitivities for the detection of brainstem injury (Adams-Gentry stage 3). A cost-benefit analysis for the USA and UK health care settings was also performed.
Among 65 included patients (30 moderate-severe, 35 unrecorded) axonal injury was detected in 54 (83%) and brainstem involvement in 33 (51%). In patients with moderate-severe TBI, brainstem injury was associated with higher concentrations of NSE, Tau, UCH-L1 and GFAP. If the clinician did not want to miss any brainstem injury, NSE could have avoided MRI transfers in up to 20% of patients. If a 94% sensitivity was accepted considering potential transfer-related complications, GFAP could have avoided 30% of transfers. There was no added net cost, with savings up to £99 (UK) or $612 (US). No associations between proteins and axonal injury were found in intubated patients without a recorded pre-intubation GCS.
Mozaffari et al. created a comprehensive appraisal of the most prominent serum biomarkers used in the assessment and care of TBI.The PubMed, Scopus, Cochrane, and Web of Science databases were queried with the terms “biomarker” and “traumatic brain injury” as search terms with only full-text, English articles within the past 10 years selected. Non-human studies were excluded, and only adult patients fell within the purview of this analysis. A total of 528 articles were analyzed in the initial search with 289 selected for screening. A further 152 were excluded for primary screening. Of the remaining 137, 54 were included in the final analysis. Serum biomarkers were listed into the following broad categories for ease of discussion: immune markers and markers of inflammation, hormones as biomarkers, coagulation and vasculature, genetic polymorphisms, antioxidants and oxidative stress, apoptosis and degradation pathways, and protein markers. Glial fibrillary acidic protein(GFAP), S100, and neurons specific enolase (NSE) were the most prominent and frequently cited markers. Amongst these three, no single serum biomarker demonstrated neither superior sensitivity nor specificity compared to the other two, therefore noninvasive panels should incorporate these three serum biomarkers to retain sensitivity and maximize specificity for TBI 4).