Publications & Posters

Blood biomarkers of traumatic brain injury and cognitive impairment in older veterans.


Peltz CB, Kenney K, Gill J, Diaz-Arrastia R, Gardner RC and Yaffe K.

Neurology. 2020 Jun 22;10.1212/WNL.0000000000010087



Objective: To determine whether blood-based biomarkers can differentiate older veterans with and without traumatic brain injury (TBI) and cognitive impairment (CI).

Methods: We enrolled 155 veterans from two veterans’ retirement homes: 90 without TBI and 65 with TBI history. Participants were further separated into CI groups: Controls (no TBI, no CI), n=60; no TBI with CI, n=30; TBI without CI, n=30; and TBI with CI, n=35. TBI was determined by the Ohio State University TBI Identification Method. CI was defined as impaired cognitive testing, dementia diagnosis, or use of dementia medication. Blood specimens were enriched for CNS-derived exosomes. Proteins [neurofilament light (NfL), total tau, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), alpha synuclein, β-amyloid 42 (Aβ42), and phosphorylated tau (pTAU)] and cytokines [tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa), interleukin 6 (IL-6) and interleukin 10] were measured using ultrasensitive immunoassays.

Results: Veterans were, on average, 79 years old. In participants with TBI history, 65% had mild TBI; average time from most recent TBI was 37 years. In adjusted analyses, the TBI and CI groups differed on CNS-enriched exosome concentration of pTAU, NfL, IL-6, TNFa (all p<0.05), and GFAP (p=0.06), but not on Aβ42 or other markers. Adjusted area under the curve (AUC) analyses found that all significantly associated biomarkers combined separated TBI with/without CI (AUC = 0.85, 95% confidence interval 0.74-0.95) and CI with/without TBI (AUC = 0.88, 95% confidence interval 0.77-0.99).

Conclusions: Increased levels of blood-based, CNS-enriched exosomal biomarkers associated with TBI and CI can be detected, even decades after TBI.