Urine analysis could definitively diagnose concussions
Although it's vitally important to know if someone has experienced a concussion, the injuries are notoriously difficult to diagnose. According to a new study, however, urine tests may do the trick – plus they could be used to monitor the healing process.
Unfortunately, concussions don't always show up in brain scans. And while diagnostic techniques such as blood tests, saliva analysis and eye scans all show promise, doctors still tend to rely on patients' self-reported symptoms, which are subjective.
Seeking a more reliable alternative, scientists at Boston Children’s Hospital instead looked into biomarkers that could be detected in urine samples. The study utilized frozen samples obtained from 95 college athletes, 48 of whom had been recently diagnosed with a concussion by a sports medicine physician, and 47 of whom served as uninjured controls.
It was found that the concussed individuals' samples contained significantly lower levels of the proteins IGF-1 and IGFBP5 (IGF-binding protein 5). Since both proteins are believed to play a role in brain injury repair, it would make sense that the body was retaining rather than excreting them.
Interestingly, the concussed athletes did not exhibit higher- or lower-than-normal amounts of biomarkers that were already associated with other types of severe brain injuries. "Concussion appears to be very different," says Cassandra Daisy, co-first author of a paper on the study.
The researchers are now planning on conducting a proof-of-concept clinical study which will involve a wider variety of patients. A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Neurology.