Physical Sciences for Health CDT
Thesis project - "Development of Point-of Care Technologies for Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnostics"
Dr Pola Goldberg-Oppenheimer, School of Chemical Engineering
Mr Tony Belli, Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
Mr Neil Eisenstein, University Hospitals Birmingham
Professor Ann Logan, Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
Dr Iain Styles, School of Computer Science
A non-invasive point of care (PoC) technique to diagnose traumatic brain injury (TBI) is proposed, by measuring changes to the optic nerve visible at the back of the eye. The optic nerve is bathed in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which is in continuity with the rest of the central nervous system. Thus, an optically clear window to the brain is made available. Engineering and physical sciences will be developed to exploit this and detect changes in CSF biomarkers of TBI using Raman spectroscopy.
The project aims to target and enhance the signal from known biomarkers of TBI using a resonance Raman effect. The enhancement in signal by this method is specific to the target molecule, and so effectively provides a means of labelling the biomarker signature. An eye model will be used to validate the experimental sensitivity and demonstrate an ability to detect changes in neurologically specific molecules from the back of the eye. This will be extended to a multiplex system by including a tunable laser, creating a novel Raman spectroscopy arrangement capable of quickly targeting different molecules of interest. Machine learning will be used to distinguish between spectral data of healthy patients and those that have sustained TBI. Biologically inspired algorithms such as artificial neural networks (ANN) will be applied: employing artificial neurons to understand and diagnose real world neurological conditions.
The ability to detect changes in CSF using a fast, portable, non-invasive and non-ionizing scan of the back of the eye has obvious applications in both ophthalmology and neuroscience. In the context of TBI, PoC diagnostics is at the heart of national guidelines and remains and unmet clinical need. Moreover, there is growing concern of the long term effects of mild traumatic brain injury and concussion, with evidence for cumulative effects from multiple sustained injuries. This is of particular concern for professional athletes and the military. The developments from this project could help provide objective time-critical decisions in these settings. An additional benefit would be the ability to monitor the long term progression and patient outcomes, since there would be no inherent health risks or expense from repeat scans (compared to CT or MRI).