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Can MicroRNA levels identify concussion symptom duration in children?

November 20, 2017

Bottom Line: MicroRNAs in the saliva of children and young adults with mild traumatic brain injury appeared to better identify people with prolonged concussion symptoms than a standard survey of reported symptoms.

Why The Research Is Interesting: Concussion symptoms typically go away within 2 weeks but some children can have prolonged symptoms. An objective test to identify children at risk of prolonged symptoms would help children and their parents know what to expect. Prior research has suggested that concentrations of microRNAs, small noncoding molecules found throughout the body, change in response to traumatic brain injury.

Who: 52 children and young adults (average age 14) with mild traumatic brain injury mostly from sports or car accidents split into two groups: 30 with prolonged symptoms and 22 with acute symptoms

What (Study Measures): Salivary microRNA levels when patients first sought medical care; concussion symptoms surveyed two and four weeks after head injury.

How (Study Design): This is an observational study. Because researchers are not intervening for purposes of the study they cannot control natural differences that could explain study findings.

Authors: Steven D. Hicks, M.D., Ph.D., of the Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania, and coauthors

Results: Concentrations of five microRNAs in saliva appeared to more accurately identify the children and young adults with prolonged concussion symptoms than a survey that measured symptoms.

Study Limitations: This is a small study of 52 patients; validation of the accuracy of microRNAs in a larger study group is needed. Future studies should examine microRNAs alongside neuroimaging and functional measures such as balance and processing speed.

Study Conclusions: MicroRNA levels in saliva may help to identify the duration of concussion symptoms and could reduce parents' anxiety and improve concussion management.
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Related material: The following related elements also are available on the For The Media website:
  • The editorial, "Promise of Salivary MicroRNA for Assessing Concussion," by William P. Meehan, III, M.D., and Rebekah Mannix, M.D., M.P.H., of Boston Children's Hospital
For more details and to read the full study, please visit the For The Media website.

(doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.3884)

Editor's Note: The article contains conflict of interest and funding/support disclosures. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.
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