Multicenter study to improve diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury

VCU one of 11 US sites to focus on effective patient-specific treatments

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Virginia Commonwealth University is one of 11 institutions across the country collaborating on a multi-center study to advance the understanding of traumatic brain injury and concussion, leading to more effective, patient-specific treatments.

The five-year study, titled “Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in Traumatic Brain Injury II,” or TRACK-TBI II, which is administered through the University of California, San Francisco, will examine clinical standards, neuroimaging standards and genetic and proteomic biomarker characteristics for TBI and concussion.

TRACK-TBI II is supported through an ongoing $18.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. During the next four years, researchers will collect data on approximately 3,000 people nationwide who have sustained an acute mild to severe brain injury.

At VCU, the TRACK-TBI II study is led by Randall Merchant, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Rehabilitation Science and Engineering in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the VCU School of Medicine.

“This research is aimed at trying to better understand the biology of head trauma and if such things like if the appearance of new proteins in the blood, if certain genes are expressed, and/or if images of the brain generated by MRI correlate with extent of injury to the brain and predict outcome,” Merchant said.

Additionally, TRACK-TBI II is collaborating on this project with VCU’s Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium. The principal investigator for CENC, David Cifu, M.D., chairman and Herman J. Flax, M.D., Professor in the VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, will serve on the TRACK-TBI II leadership team.

According to Merchant, adults who arrive at the Emergency Department of the VCU Medical Center within 24 hours of a suspected TBI will be invited to enroll in the TRACK-TBI II study. Merchant and colleagues will follow patients for one year and periodically interview them to determine how well they are recovering from their brain injury. The team will obtain blood samples to test for unique serum proteins or immunological markers that could correlate with recovery from a brain injury. Many of the participants will also undergo magnetic resonance imaging of their brain approximately two weeks and six months post-injury at the VCU Collaborative Advanced Research Imaging facility.

“It is hoped that these tests will establish the value of imaging and biomarkers for refining how TBI is classified and optimizing the selection and assignment of patients for clinical trials of treatments for TBI,” Merchant said.

The project is supported by the NIH, grant number is 1U01NS086090.


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