Kennesaw State showcases state-of-the-art brain injury research lab

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To access downloadable information, photos and to watch the press briefing and lab tour, click here…

Georgia (Jul 25, 2011)To access downloadable information, photos and to watch the press briefing and lab tour, click here.

Pioneering researchers develop blood test to predict strokes, diagnose strokes and concussions

KENNESAW, Ga. (July 25, 2011) — A new neuroscience team at Kennesaw State University, partnering with researchers from the medical schools at Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh, has been awarded a major grant from the Department of Defense (DOD) to validate the efficacy of a new “biomarker blood test” for concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries. 

The research team, led by Kennesaw State University Distinguished Professor of Health and Human Services Svetlana Dambinova, D.Sc., Ph.D., recently received a $2.38 million Department of Defense grant to help diagnose battlefield concussions. The team’s work focuses on the chemical reactions that occur in the body in the aftermath of concussions and strokes.

The group of cutting-edge neuroscientists and neurologists opened their new research facility – Kennesaw State’s Brain Biomarkers Research Laboratory – to the media today for the first time, and hosted key visiting members of its national research project. Their lab is located in Kennesaw State’s $56 million Prillaman Hall Health Sciences Building.

Joining in today’s media briefing and lab tour were fellow researcher Kerstin Bettermann, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurology at the Penn State College of Medicine and co-principal investigator on the DOD grant; and consultant James F. Toole, M.D., L.L.B., former president of the International Stroke Society and retired professor of neurology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. The two noted researchers described the clinical chemistry protocols that are being tested in the Kennesaw State lab as “true innovation” with “huge ramifications.”

Penn State’s Bettermann is the principal investigator on a $3.6 million National Institutes of Health stroke grant for which the research team has applied. Toole is an internationally renowned stroke researcher, and served as the only American president of the World Federation of Neurology Society. The visiting researchers joined their colleagues and the media for a demonstration of the biomarker lab test that is being employed and validated in several university and hospital settings.

“The validation of this research protocol would be a true innovation, and would revolutionize the field of TIA and stroke diagnosis,” Betterman stated.  “The predictive value – and the accessibility – of the NR2 peptide to diagnose TIAs and acute strokes in the emergency room have enormous potential. If the NR2 peptide (blood test) accurately diagnoses brain ischemia (loss of oxygen to the brain), this study could help to update the field of stroke care in the U.S. and globally, and ultimately may help to reduce health care expenditures.”

Toole cited other potential applications for the test. “If you can conduct a blood test, and not have to get an image of your head – which sometimes cannot take place until eight or nine hours after an injury has occurred (due to scheduling challenges, etc.) – then you have a potential alternative to an MRI, which could cost up to $5,000, compared to a blood test that will cost $25 to $50,” Toole said.  “This has huge ramifications, and would be a true innovation.” 

According to Centers for Disease Control statistics, about 1.7 million concussions or mild traumatic brain injury cases occur annually in the United States. Some 795,000 Americans each year suffer a stroke, and about 137,000 die of strokes every year – the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer.

Dambinova and her team’s discovery of a key molecule that may aid in the early detection of strokes and brain injuries, has led to the development of a blood test that can be easily administered in hospital emergency rooms, as well as in combat conditions and at athletic events. The molecule which can be helpful in the early diagnosis of stroke and neurotrauma, may come from the brain into the bloodstream. If the molecule is found to be in the bloodstream, it could give health care providers the opportunity to identify not only the occurrence of a stroke, but potentially the ability to predict a “mini-stroke” or a “silent stroke” before it even happens or gets detected, Dambinova said.

According to Toole, “Dr. Dambinova’s research is unique because it is not just about brain biomarkers,
but is an enormous advance in neurological diagnostics, which not too long ago required an extensive, laborious and sometimes inexact elicitation of information, as well as a tedious examination of neurological functions, followed by extremely expensive tests. If validated, her biomarker discovery will revolutionize the field,” he stated.

Dambinova and her team’s work will be a featured presentation at this week’s gathering in Atlanta of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC). AACC has honored and recognized her research advances and scholarships on several past occasions. The Royal Society of Chemistry Publishing House in London also has invited Dr. Dambinova and two other researchers, Dr. R. Hayes and Dr. K. Wang – both of Banyan Biomarkers, Inc. in Alachua, Fla. – to assemble outstanding researchers and clinicians in the area of traumatic brain injury in the forthcoming book “Biomarkers for TBI,” slated for publication in 2012. The book will describe advanced technologies in the biomarker field. It also will be concentrated on detection of blood-based biomarkers to improve diagnostic certainty of mild TBI in conjunction with radiological and clinical findings. The book will enhance the knowledge of scientists, pharmacologists, chemists, medical students, and graduate students.

The medical application of biomarkers for TBI – which is becoming a hot topic – was discussed in the plenary sessions at THE Biochemical Markers for Brain Disorders conference in Lund, Sweden, this past May; and at the July 2010 International Conference on Recent Advances in Neurotraumatology, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering more than 70 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including doctorates in education, business and nursing, and a Ph.D. in international conflict management. A member of the 35-unit University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing population of more than 23,400 students from 142 countries.


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