A team of international scientists, including Melbourne researchers, has find blood samples can help gauge the severity of children’s brain injuries, indicating which children will recover and which will need ongoing support. The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), working with Canadian scientists; analyse blood from 158 children who present with head injuries at children’s hospitals in Melbourne, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver from 2011 to 2013.
These patients were select from a pool of 1680 children who present with head injuries. Their results were compare with those of 416 healthy children. MCRI’s Clinical Services Director Professor Vicki Anderson says that traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death and acquired disability for children in high-income countries like Australia and Canada.
“Around 0.7% of the child population is treat in emergency departments every year for traumatic brain injury; that’s almost one in a hundred children,” Prof Anderson said. “The leading causes of traumatic brain injury to children; which are falls, car crashes, sport and abuse.” Prof Anderson says the study looks at whether levels of a blood biomarker a protein called tau can help better understand; so the severity of brain injury in children under 18. “CT scans are use to diagnose brain injury but there are concerns about exposing children to radiation and young children often need to be sedated,” she says.
“Doctors can measure levels of the neuronal microtubule protein tau and this indicates the severity of brain injury in adults. However tau levels naturally fluctuate more in children so research was need to test whether this would work.” Prof Anderson says the study has found that measuring levels of tau in older children gives doctors an indication of the severity of mild brain disorders, however more research is need..
Child brain injuries
“Measuring tau levels will help us identify; which children with brain injury will recover well and which will have the highest risk of ongoing problems and so require treatment; such as rehabilitation and ongoing support at school,” she said. Prof Anderson said the team believes this is the first large-scale study to report on tau concentrations; so in both healthy children and children with traumatic brain injury. “Tau levels naturally fall in healthy children as they age but tau increases immediately after a traumatic brain injury.”
Prof Anderson says to use blood samples to assess the severity of child brain injuries; the team first establish what the normal levels of tau in children should be according to age. “They show that tau decreases as children grow; with three significant age partitions, less than four years, four to 15 years and 16 to 19 years,” she says. Prof Anderson says future studies are need to look at tau levels; hence after the first day of injury and also to search for other biomarkers of brain injury.