Roughly a quarter of all soldiers who see combat experience a traumatic brain injury, according to the National Institutes of Health. And about 20 percent of those who do will suffer from chronic symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, and behavioral issues, for months or even years to come.
Using the latest blood analysis technology, Jessica Gill, Nurs '07, chief of the Brain Injury Unit of the National Institute of Nursing Research, has discovered a correlation between elevated levels of a protein called tau in the blood of brain injury patients and the likelihood that their symptoms will persist long term. "The goal is to identify those patients who are most at risk and then monitor them and be ready to intervene," Gill says. As our understanding of brain injury grows, she envisions a quick, on-the-spot system for analyzing blood—or even sweat—to determine the severity of a brain injury, whether at a field hospital or on a football field.
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