Kennesaw State Opens Doors to New Brain Injury Research Laboratory

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Georgia (Jul 26, 2011)

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Monday, Kennesaw State University opened the doors of its new Brain Biomarkers Research Laboratory, located in the Prillaman Hall Health Sciences Building. There, KSU researchers hope to lead efforts in evaluating the impact and severity of concussions and strokes.

The research team, headed by Distinguished Professor of Health and Human Services Svetlana Dambinova, specializes in the treatment and study of brain and spinal cord injuries using blood test diagnostics. The project, a partnership with researchers at Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh, recently received a $2.38 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to study and diagnose concussions suffered on the battlefield.

Team member and neuroscientist Galina Izykenova explained that research will involve looking for biomarkers–"special molecules, which will show the process of brain injury."

Izykenova said that biomarker testing on the sub-clinical level could help prevent brain deterioration from occurring in patients that have experienced strokes or concussions.

“These molecules, biomarkers, show early, early complications of [brain damage],” Izykenova said. “As soon as we know all this, treatment may be given and introduced. This is especially important for athletes and military personnel.”

While the research will primarily focus on battlefield injuries, Dambinova said the team is also working with KSU's Sports Medicine Department to study the benefits for athletes, a group especially susceptible to concussions.

In May, Cobb County school officials announced all 8,000-plus athletes in county high schools will receive preseason brain tests next school year to measure their recovery in the event of a concussion.

About 1.7 million concussions or mild traumatic brain injury cases occur annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Strokes are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

“We are really proud of this,” said Richard Sowell, Dean of the WellStar College of Health and Human Services. “The equipment, they tell me, is as good, if not better, than most of the hospitals in the area."

Sowell added there are opportunities for expansion and that in the future, part of the lab could be utilized as a clinical facility.

Research consultant James Toole, former president of the International Stroke Society, said that breakthroughs in biomarker research could lead to other benefits, such as testing cardiac conditions as simply as blood sugar tests are conducted today.

“You will find a biomarker that tells you in the emergency room, or maybe when you’re driving down the street, and you can do a little test," said Toole, adding that he "bets" that breakthrough will be made within the next 10 years.

KSU President Daniel Papp said he envisions Kennesaw State “becoming the next nationally recognized” university over the next three years, citing the research facility as a key example of the university’s academic and scholarly growth.

“One of the ways we are going to do that is to expand our emphasis on research, scholarship and creative activity," said Papp.

“The primary reason we are here today, as a matter of fact, is because of the growth of our success,” he continued. “Five years ago, we were only at about the $2 million level in externally-funded research. We have expanded by five times. This last year, we broke the $20 million mark in research expenditures and the $17 million mark in new research grants.”

The research team has also applied for a four-year, $3.6 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes to study acute brain ischemia. Papp said the university, as a whole, also has several grant proposals out with the World Bank, the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation.

“Ten years from now, I would like to see us up around to the $60-70 million range, about eight to 10 times our annual expenditures right now," said Papp.

Research grants like the one given to the university’s Biomarker lab are vital–not only to KSU’s growth, but the economic development of Cobb County–he said.

“One of the things that frequently happens with grants is that you wind up with spin-off companies being formed,” said Papp. “Spin-off companies attract angel capital, they wind up creating jobs and they wind up adding economic development to the state and the county.”


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit