Bridge fellowship: USA-UK collaboration to help diagnose mild traumatic brain injury

The success of a five year study into potential biomarkers indicative of traumatic brain injury has led to additional funding for a portable diagnostic tool, and a collaboration with the USA.  

Valentina di pietro - February 2017Researchers at the University of Birmingham and University Hospitals Birmingham have identified microRNA biomarkers that are detectable within minutes of traumatic brain injury (TBI).  Identification of microRNAs means that it may be possible to diagnose and appropriately  treat TBI which may previously have gone undiagnosed.

Dr Valentina Di Pietro, a Molecular Neuroscientist from the University of Birmingham, has been awarded a BRIDGE fellowship to undertake TBI research in collaboration with the University of Illinois, USA.  The fellowship allows Dr di Pietro to combine neuroimaging techniques available in the USA with the results of the five year microRNA study. 

The Birmingham-Illinois Partnership for Discovery, Engagement and Education (BRIDGE) fellowship starts in April 2017 and includes a 1 year placement with the University of Illinois.  If successful, it is hoped this will lead to a clinical trial down the line.

This fellowship is in addition to a funding award recently made to Professor Tony Belli and Dr Di Pietro to develop an affordable, portable, point of care test to detect the presence of microRNAs linked with TBI. Professor Belli and Dr Di Pietro will also be looking at developing a saliva-based test.

At present there is no accepted blood or saliva test for TBI and diagnosis is made on clinical or radiological grounds.   If successful, they envisage the diagnostic tool could be used as part of initial assessments by paramedics to determine whether patients should be transported to a facility with neurosurgical expertise, a major trauma centre or a local trauma unit.  In the emergency room it could be used to determine the need for a CT brain scan. 

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