National Institutes of Health (NIH) Awards Grant to the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Neurosciences Program

ATLANTA (March 13, 2017) – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is awarding the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Neurosciences Program with a grant to study a potential breakthrough in the diagnosis of pediatric traumatic brain injuries.

Andrew Reisner, MD, a Neurosurgeon at Children's, and Laura Blackwell, PhD, a Neuropsychologist at Children's, will receive $466,650 from NIH to study a potential blood biomarker that could detect pediatric traumatic brain injuries, such as a concussion, and the severity. Determining a biomarker for traumatic brain injuries in children could be a significant step forward in detection and treatment, potentially enabling appropriate prioritization in treatment, early intervention for complications and follow-up rehabilitation planning. Current management relies on initial radiographic imaging and neurological examinations. There is no simple lab test to monitor the progression of brain injury.

“We are thrilled to receive this honor and recognition from NIH,” Dr. Reisner said. “Identifying a potential blood biomarker for traumatic brain injuries in children could mean physicians at Children’s and around the world would be able to provide even more accurate and informed care for their patients.”

The study will focus on the potential of osteopontin, a protein in blood, as a reliable biomarker using blood samples from 175 patients under 21 years of age. The level of osteopontin in a blood sample immediately after a potential brain injury will be examined to determine its relationship to the severity and progression of brain injury. It will also be examined as a potential predictor of a patient’s physical and emotional capabilities six months after injury.

“At Children’s, our goal is to help kids recover from injuries and setbacks, and this study may provide us with another way to achieve that goal,” said Dr. Blackwell.

Traumatic brain injuries are a major cause of death and disability in the U.S. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) database, traumatic brain injuries caused approximately 2.5 million emergency department visits in the U.S. in 2010, accounting for 30% of all injury-related deaths and 138 deaths every day. The highest rate of traumatic brain injury-related emergency department visits by age group is for those between 0 and 24 years old, which are two to four times higher than the number of traumatic brain injury-related visits for those between 25 and 44 years old.

Additionally, children who have experienced traumatic brain injuries are at greater risk of impaired thinking, memory, movement, sensation, emotional and behavioral functioning, which can negatively impact the individual’s quality of life and increase the amount of care needed throughout their life.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute Of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of NIH under Award Number R21NS103507.

For more information:

Jennifer Burkhardt

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta


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As the only freestanding pediatric healthcare system in Georgia, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is the trusted leader in caring for kids. The not-for-profit organization’s mission is to make kids better today and healthier tomorrow through more than 60 pediatric specialties and programs, top healthcare professionals, and leading research and technology. Children’s is one of the largest pediatric clinical care providers in the country, managing more than one million patient visits annually at three hospitals, Marcus Autism Center, the Center for Advanced Pediatrics, urgent care centers and neighborhood locations. Consistently ranked among the top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has impacted the lives of kids in Georgia, across the United States and around the world for more than 100 years thanks to generous support from the community.

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