Concussion Blood Marker Could Be a Hit

By Scott LaFee

April 15, 2015 4 min read

Determining whether someone — a football player, for example — has suffered a concussion can be difficult. The line between yes and no can be, well, a little fuzzy. What's needed is an easy-to-do, relatively quick and definitive test.

Researchers at Brown University think they have one: a standard blood test that measures possible molecular biomarkers that quickly appear in the aftermath of a concussion. Instead of looking for specific proteins that are released by dying brain cells, which aren't always abundant after a concussion, the researchers focused on proteins produced in response to injury. They identified a combination of proteins that seems to appear specifically in response to neurological damage (as opposed to, say, breaking a bone).

Blood levels of these proteins rose measurably within eight hours of head injury in studies of emergency room patients who had concussions diagnosed by other means. The diagnosis timing isn't necessarily useful in the immediate aftermath of a concussion, but the researchers suggest an additional benefit: Manipulating levels of the proteins could help modulate the body's inflammation response, reducing damage after the fact.

Body of Knowledge

After age 30, the brain begins to lose neurons at a rate of about 50,000 per day, shrinking 0.25 percent in mass each year.

Get Me That, Stat!

Aficionados of raw milk insist it's tastier and more healthful than the pasteurized version, but it's also 100 times likelier to make you sick, according to a new study out of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. More than half of milk-related foodborne illnesses each year are associated with raw milk consumption, even though only an estimated 3.5 percent of Americans drink the stuff.

Number Cruncher

An Outback Steakhouse steakhouse salad (100 grams) contains 1,039 calories, 648 from fat. It has 72 grams of total fat, or 111 percent of the recommended total fat intake for a 2,000-calorie daily diet, according to the Calorie Count database.

It also contains 104 milligrams of cholesterol (35 percent), 1,448 milligrams of sodium (60 percent), 29 grams of sugar, 7 grams of dietary fiber and 51 grams of protein.

Mania of the Week

Onomatomania: the irresistible desire to repeat certain words, the irresistible desire to repeat certain words.

Never Say Diet

The speed-eating record for beef tongue is 3 pounds, 3 ounces in 12 minutes, held by Dominic Cardo. No word on whether after the stomach-bursting feat, Cardo was able to hold his tongue.

Observation

"There is no body cavity that cannot be reached with a number fourteen needle and a good strong arm." — author Samuel Shem (pseudonym for psychiatrist Stephen Bergman), in the novel "The House of God"

Medical History

This week in 2008, British doctors implanted "bionic" eyes in two blind patients who had retinitis pigmentosa but intact optic nerves. In four-hour operations, they implanted a tiny electrode panel onto the back of each eye and an ultra-thin receiver under the skin near the ear to pick up a wireless signal from a tiny camera on sunglasses and a signal processor worn on a belt. The patients were able to perceive an array of light spots showing crude shapes and movements.

Last Words

"Doctor, do you think it could have been the sausage?" — French poet Paul Claudel (1868-1955)

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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