Over the last couple of years, the awareness around concussions has rapidly grown as a public health concern, mostly in sport injuries, but being able to precisely diagnose the condition and the duration of it has mainly depending on patient surveys.
This technique, however, is not quite the most accurate way of measuring the severity of a concussion, and more efficient markers have been found. This week, a piece in JAMA Pediatrics Journal, a team of researchers from Penn State College of Medicine has discovered a new indicator in a patient’s spit.
In more details, the researches monitored the levels of microRNAs, which are small scraps of noncoding RNA, located in the saliva of concussion patients and discovered that particular microRNAs were more efficient at finding concussions than patients surveys. They found that these signals have the potential to better anticipate the length of concussion symptoms.
Steven Hicks, M.D.,Ph.D., stated “There’s been a big push recently to find more objective markers that a concussion has occurred, instead of relying simply on patient surveys.”
“Previous research has focused on proteins, but this approach is limited because proteins have a hard time crossing the blood-brain barrier. What’s novel about this study is we looked at microRNAs instead of proteins, and we decided to look in saliva rather than blood.”
Discovering a more precise diagnosis of the condition and its severity is crucial, as treatment is typically geared around rest and abstention from anything, for example sports, that could aggravate the concussion. But if the doctor uses a patient survey and doesn’t give a patient the proper time to recover, they could be putting them at a higher risk of undergoing more damage.
The more times a person suffers from a concussion, the risk heightens that it could result in more damage. Some recent studies indicate that even mild concussion could advance the risk of late-life cognitive impairment as well as neurodegenerative disease, specifically when repeated injuries are involved.
The JAMA study administered nearly 50 younger patients all under the age of 21, using the survey approach via the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT-3) and the saliva test.
Hicks adds, “The microRNAs were able to predict whether symptoms would last beyond four weeks with about 85% accuracy.”
“In comparison, using the SCAT-3 report of symptoms alone is about 64% accurate. If you just go off the parent’s report of symptoms, it goes down to the mid-50s. In this pilot study, these molecular signatures are outperforming survey tools.”