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J Neurotrauma. 2009 Nov;26(11):1867-77. doi: 10.1089/neu.2009.0882.

A panel of neuron-enriched proteins as markers for traumatic brain injury in humans.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Center for Brain Injury and Repair, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


Surrogate markers have enormous potential for contributing to the diagnosis, prognosis, and therapeutic evaluation of acute brain damage, but extensive prior study of individual candidates has not yielded a biomarker in widespread clinical practice. We hypothesize that a panel of neuron-enriched proteins measurable in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and blood should vastly improve clinical evaluation and therapeutic management of acute brain injuries. Previously, we developed such a panel based initially on the study of protein release from degenerating cultured neurons, and subsequently on rodent models of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and ischemia, consisting of 14-3-3beta, 14-3-3zeta, three distinct phosphoforms of neurofilament H, ubiquitin hydrolase L1, neuron-specific enolase, alpha-spectrin, and three calpain- and caspase-derived fragments of alpha-spectrin. In the present study, this panel of 11 proteins was evaluated as CSF and serum biomarkers for severe TBI in humans. By quantitative Western blotting and sandwich immunoassays, the CSF protein levels were near or below the limit of detection in pre-surgical and most normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) controls, but following TBI nine of the 11 were routinely elevated in CSF. Whereas different markers peaked coordinately, the time to peak varied across TBI cases from 24-96 h post-injury. In serum, TBI increased all four members of the marker panel for which sandwich immunoassays are currently available: a calpain-derived NH(2)-terminal alpha-spectrin fragment and the three neurofilament H phosphoforms. Our results identify neuron-enriched proteins that may serve as a panel of CSF and blood surrogate markers for the minimally invasive detection, management, mechanistic, and therapeutic evaluation of human TBI.

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